Rice Insecticides: A Huge, Constantly Growing Market
Year:2010 ISSUE:10
Click:348    DateTime:Nov.02,2010
Rice Insecticides: A Huge, Constantly Growing Market
By Zhang Weinong

Rice is the biggest crop in China. Its planting area exceeds 33 million hectares, accounting for about 30% of China's total crop planting area. According to survey data, about 15 million hectares of paddy fields in China suffer from rice insects perennially, accounting for 45% of total rice planting area. China produces 800 000 tons of insecticides (100% insecticide active ingredients) each year, and consumes nearly 130 000 tons itself, of which about 60 000 tons is used to kill insects in rice fields. The demand for rice insecticides is increasing year by year in China.

1. After the highly toxic insecticide methamidophos was prohibited, a large number of alternative products became popular in the market

Before being banned, methamidophos was a major insecticide for rice pest control. In 2006, China produced 72 000 tons of methamidophos, of which 30 000 tons was used for rice pest control. Due to its high toxicity, methamidophos was outlawed on January 1st, 2007, leaving a huge vacancy of RMB7 billion in the rice insecticide market after 30 000 tons of methamidophos was withdrawn.
   In China, there are many types of rice pests. In the three years after 2007, the use of alternatives for methamidophos increased rapidly. Chlorpyrifos, fipronil, indoxacarb, buprofezin, isoprocarb, profenofos and avermectins quickly became mainstream products in the rice insecticide market. The sale of chlorpyrifos was once sluggish because its price was much higher than that of methamidophos. But now, its sales volume has increased by nearly 100%. Now, the annual demand for its active ingredient in China has risen to somewhere between 6 000 and 9 000 tons. The use of fipronil has increased by 200%, and the use of buprofezin has increased by more than five times. The consumption of traditional low-toxicity organophosphorus insecticides, such as dichlorvos, acephate, phoxim, triazophos, trichlorfon and phenthoate, has also grown in varying degrees, because they are effective in controlling rice pests. In 2006 and 2007, the serious planthopper threat was conducive to the promotion of these insecticides. In recent years, avermectins have become popular in China's southern provinces because of their broad insecticidal spectrum, enhanced practical efficacy and cost reduction. Test results show that avermectins have a lower cost than methamidophos and chlorpyrifos. Therefore, avermectins quickly became farmers' preferred insecticides for rice pest control.

2. The development and promotion of new rice insecticides in China speeded up

Although methamidophos has been prohibited, traditional rice insecticides, such as dichlorvos, trichlorfon, carbofuran, triazophos and phenthoate, still occupy a major market share in China. In recent years, Chinese research institutions and enterprises have developed and industrialized a large number of efficient, safe and environmentally friendly new rice insecticides. This has intensified the market competition and made the lifespan of new insecticides even shorter than before. So the updating of insecticide products becomes faster. New rice insecticide products that have been accepted by dealers and farmers are nitenpyram, pymetrozine, thiamethoxam, fufenozide and butylene fipronil.
   Butylene fipronil developed by Dalian Razer Pesticides Co., Ltd. has a high insecticidal activity, low toxicity and low persistence. After obtaining temporary registration in 2007, it has been used in more than 600 000 hectares of rice paddies and is gradually being accepted by consumers. It is expected that in the following years after 2010, butylene fipronil will become one of mainstream insecticides for rice pest control.
   Due to its high toxicity to aquatic organisms, fipronil has been prohibited in China's agricultural production since July 1st, 2009, leaving behind a market vacancy that is equal to 10 000 t/a of insecticides or a value of RMB1 billion. The demand for pymetrozine, thiamethoxam, nitenpyram, avermectins and chloantraniliprole rose at once. These insecticides sell well all around China.

3. The use of imported products increases at an unprecedented pace in China

Most of imported rice insecticides are environmentally friendly and low-toxicity. They are better than domestic insecticides in terms of emulsification, atomization and dosage and can provide farmers better protection for their crops. Therefore, the consumption of imported rice insecticides is now gradually increasing in China.
   In China, imported rice insecticides include mainly DuPont's KK (20% chlorantraniliprole suspension concentrate (SC)), Syngenta's Virtako (40% chlorantraniliprole + thiamethoxam water dispersible granules (WDG)), BASF's Alverde (24% metaflumizone SC) and Nihon Nohyaku's flubendiamide (20% flubendiamide WDG). According to statistics, the consumption ratio of conventional rice insecticides and imported rice insecticides is about 9:1 in China. In 2009, the market demand for imported high-end rice insecticides increased by about 20%. Rice farmers increasingly prefer to use imported insecticides for two reasons. First, imported insecticides have good efficacy. For example, in May 2007, in the large-area planthopper control demonstration project in Honghe of Yunnan province, the excellent planthopper control effect of Admire developed by Bayer was recommended by agricultural experts around China. Another example is that the fumigation and permeability of Lorsban developed by Dow AgroSciences for rice pest control is much better than those of domestically-made insecticides. When a new rice insecticide, Virtako, promoted by Syngenta AG, was officially sold in both Zhejiang province and Shanghai in 2008, it won Chinese agricultural experts' good comments. Secondly, although imported rice insecticides are expensive, their prices are stable. For example, 20% chlorantraniliprole is sold at a price of RMB7/bottle in Hunan province. It is more expensive than domestic insecticides such as chlorpyrifos and avermectins, but its market price has little fluctuation. When planthoppers broke out in some areas of Anhui province in July and August of 2009, the prices of conventional domestic insecticides increased by 10%-20%, but the price of chlorantraniliprole remained unchanged. High-end insecticide products generally have better pest control effects than conventional insecticides, and although they are much more costly, they attract buyers due to their benefits. So in rural areas, major crop planters increasingly use more high-end insecticide products.