Opportunities & Challenges for Bringing Fertilizers to Latin America: What Does It Take to Survive?

Latin America is an important region for global food production and export. Crop production in Latin America has risen dramatically in recent decades and its production is expected to continue to rise as growers in countries such as Brazil continue to expand planted area and push for higher yields. This, in turn, will support increased fertilizers consumption.

Latin America has become one of the most promising markets of crop nutrition, especially biostimulant. According to the recently report, the Latin American biostimulant market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 11.54 during the forecast period of 2017 to 2022. Given the agricultural prominence of the region, many famous fertilizer companies, such as ADOB, Tradecorp and Biolchim, have entered the market and made great achievements over the past years. AgroPages recently invited industry leaders, including ADOB, Tradecorp, Inocucor Technologies, Biolchim and Bioiberica, to introduce their experiences on the market development.
The Latin American market is changing in line with the regional economic trends. The market for NPK is well balanced and split between importers and domestic manufacturers with local production capacities. Of course, all the main global players are present and very active in the region. There are an enormous number of local manufacturers as well, which this is why the market is very fragmented. I think that the main opportunities for crop nutrition companies include a steady development of crop growing areas and the intensification of agricultural production. The growing area of the main crops is expected to grow by more than 15% by 2025. More and more farmers are coming to realize that correctly balanced fertilization is necessary to increase crop yields and, ultimately, to maximize profits from crop production. As a result, the main drivers for the ongoing popularization of fertilizers in the region are unquestionable.
According to ADOB’s experience as a manufacturer of specialized fertilizers, among others, calcium-/magnesium-based products and chelated microelements, the Latin American markets are following a worldwide growth trend, with a CAGR of 7-8%. Additionally, the market is still showing huge potential for further growth in the coming years. Regional diversity is one of the most important challenges faced by crop nutrition manufacturers, including different soil conditions, a huge range of cultivated crops, variable weather conditions and water quality; all these factors result in very diverse plant nutrition requirements. The need to adapt and develop a range of products meeting the needs and expectations of the local customers and markets is one of the main challenges faced by our industry in Latin America.
ADOB is well presented on the Latin America markets through various distribution channels. We entered the regional market several years back and have since noticed a continuous and steady growth on all the local markets where our products are sold. Our success depends on being a high product quality and on our ability to deliver tailored made products that meet the needs and requirements of our local customers. We follow a simple formula: tell us the kind of product do you need, what mixture of microelements is needed on the market, and we will develop the right formula for you. Our R&D department is always eager to take on new tasks and challenges connected with preparing and developing new products that guarantee success on local markets. Our concept is not necessarily an easy one at the start, but as customers become convinced of the effciacy of our products and technologies,our operation grows easier and gains momentum.
ADOB’s products are widely applied in agriculture, fruit and vegetable production. Our offer comprises a whole range of products in liquid and solid form, primarily for foliar applications. They can be used both with traditional ground sprayers and in aerial spraying. Apart from the foliar application, many of our products can be applied in fertigation systems. Our product portfolio for our Latin American customers consist of biodegradable IDHA chelates, standard EDTA chelates, standard and potassium-based DTPA chelates, combination of the above-mentioned chelated microelements with Ca/Mgbased products.
As I mentioned, our products are manufactured according to local requirements in terms of such things as local soil condition and water quality. The latter is quite important, especially for soya bean cultivation and for Mn application in combination with glyphosate .
On entering the Latin American market, we invested a great deal into understanding its specific nature and needs, and in working out a business concept that would prove successful in the local conditions. We conducted a lot of field trials and tests of our products in cooperation with Brazilian universities, leading local farmers and customers, to prove the effciacy and quality of our products. They are widely appreciated, both among our business partners and end users. It is a very important sign for us, showing that our adopted growth strategy remains correct. Our investments in developing cutting-edge production technologies in recent years are bringing results; ADOB stands out through the quality and advancement of its offer. It is appreciated by customers in many regions, including Latin America. As a result, our regional growth has recently outperformed the global CAGR for specialty fertilizers.
Latin America is a very important market for ADOB and we’re very optimistic about the future. If the registration procedures in some countries were a bit more friendly, our growth could be even higher.
Latin America is one of the fastest growing markets in the world, and in the long run will represent around 20% of the world market; the main segments of this industry (biostimulants and specialty micronutrients) will grow at higher rates than in the rest of the world. Its geographical location and its positive evolution towards the modernization of technology in food production systems are some of the main drivers for this growth. Increased productivity in food production is the main challenge for Latin American growers in all crop areas; for this reason, we, in the industry, need to develop solutions, products and services to accompany growers as they undertake their main challenge of producing more and healthier food with efficiency.
Nowadays, Tradecorp has strong experience in key countries in Latin American markets, with more than 20 years in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico and Peru. In these countries, we are happy to serve our growers in the production of the main high-value crops of the region: Avocado, Berries, Coffee, Corn, Flowers, Grapes, Rice, Tomatoes and Soybeans, among others.
America, and specifically Latin America, is a key region for Tradecorp. As part of our long term business plan, we have been investing to increase our presence and our services in other parts of our region. In the short term, we will be happy to serve more growers in other important countries of Latin America with our high quality products and services.
Tradecorp is a leading company in the crop nutrition industry; we develop our products to solve customer needs, using our in-depth understanding of plant physiology and exclusive raw materials, which we can combine to develop novel solutions. We have an extensive portfolio that helps growers increase their crop productivity in all of their production systems.
Tradecorp has the same philosophy around the world: to be the main reference in the crop nutrition industry for our stake holders. This is what we did in America; we have been working to provide a professional and close service, working side by side with our customers every day, listening to their needs and developing effective and innovative solutions to improve the productivity and proftability of their crops.
With the goal of offering a professional and close service also in Latin America, we have increased our presence by opening a subsidiary in Colombia, hiring more technical sales representatives in Brazil, Mexico and Peru and investing a significant amount of resources in R&D by hiring highly-qualified professionals to solve our growers’ most challenging issues. Further, we have developed and successfully launched more than 10 new products in the region, we have built a new products pipeline, and we are working to provide our customers with new innovative solutions in the near future. These actions have helped us to sustain a solid growth pattern in the region while at the same time building a bright future for the coming years.
We see the Latin American market as a logical next step for Inocucor and our products. Latin America is very successful and important in food production and we feel we can help further growers’ successes with our products. A main challenge for companies is adequate field testing in appropriate environments so that products can be registered. The registration process itself can be tricky and finding the right partner to help test, register, and ultimately distribute our products will be key.
We have finished up our second season of testing in South America and will begin our third this coming season. Initially we have focused on soybeans however we hope to expand into high-value produce to further validate the benefits our products can have for growers. Initial trials have shown good success and we continue to validate this and expand our data to see how we best fit in this market.
Our main product is a biologically-based biostimulant that can be applied in many different ways from seed coating to a transplant drench to drip irrigation to foliar applications and can be mixed with other biological or chemical products a grower may be using on their crops currently.
We first tested, and continue testing, with a company in Uruguay with whom our companies had a mutual connection. We since have expanded to Argentina contracting research with another potential cooperator to validate data and evaluate our fit in the market. We will continue testing in Uruguay and look to expand testing into high-value produce in Brazil to further our knowledge about our product’s yield enhancement and validate the ROI impact for the grower to ensure this works in their operations.
Latin American market is a very advanced one. Agricultural know-how is commonly very high. The main opportunity for an innovation-focused company, as Biolchim, is that farmers are very open to new technologies for improving crop quality and productivity. The two biggest challenges are: 1) the recent appearance of local competitors coming out with products that are less technically advanced and sold at a very aggressive price. 2) legal restraints and registration procedures are becoming more strict.
Today, Biolchim has a strongly established business network in Latin America and it’s aiming to develop even further more its presence, mainly in Central America. The group has one subsidiary and a production plant in Brazil to serve both the local market and the neighboring countries. We have long established strong partnerships with local distributors in other parts of the continent, such as Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Chili and Argentina and we have recently opened the market in Central America too.
We provide our customers mainly with biostimulants. Biostimulants are special products, based on different biologically active plant extracts, which improve crop productivity by stimulating plant physiological process, such as rooting, flowering, fruit setting and growth. Along with biostimulants, we also distribute other product families, namely powdery and liquid foliar NPK, meso and micronutrients-based products, WSF for fertigation, organic and organo-mineral granular products.
Over the past 3 years, our developing strategy has been based on continuous and capillary activities of technical and marketing support to our local partner. We have organized numerous technical seminars, feld visits, demo-trials, etc. In order to support our strategy, we have hired a Technical Manager, based in the region, who’s working on a daily basis with the technical team of our distributors and in coordination with the Italian Headquarter.
Moreover, we are constantly increasing our direct market control in Brazil through our subsidiary, Biolchim Do Brasil, and we are also finalizing another structure in an important market of the area, which will offer support services to our local partners.
Bioiberica S.A.U 
The Latin America market is full of opportunities for its diversity of crops and the wide extensions of most of them, with huge farms and an increasing implementation of new technologies. Furthermore, crop limiting factors and climate change enhance the effect of our biostimulant products. For Spanish companies, I think it’s even easier to enter this market for the cultural and linguistic issue.
We’ve been in LA market for more than 20 years, with a remarkable presence in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Brazil. In the last 7 years we have increased our presence as well in Mexico, Dominican Rep., Uruguay, Peru, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama…
All the range of our biostimulants is present in LA. Since most markets started more than 20 years ago with Terra-Sorb® in fruits and vegetables. In the last 4 years our silicon-based biostimulant Armurox® has shown very good results in sugarcane and rice in many areas. As well we are positioning our catalogue in other tropical crops such as mango, bananas, coffee and pineapple, where our biostimulant Optimus® has performed very well in tank mixtures. Our main Biological Attractant, Cera Trap®, has also been introduced in almost all countries for the control of fruit fly pests, in integrated (IPM) and ecological strategies.
Over the past 3 years, we did the same than we had been doing for the last 25 years: expanding our business in key crops through partnering with one global distributor in each country, by doing feld trials and research in every site.