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Brazil seed industry poised for consolidation wave

The Brazilian seeds industry, which saw a wave of acquisitions by foreign majors in the late 1990s, may be braced for another consolidation drive, as groups seek to gain share of the country's surging soybean sector.

Credit Suisse said that in corn - of which Brazil is the third-ranked producer - the country's seed sector looks "fairly similar" to that in the US.

Monsanto is "the technology leader, but also the most expensive, with [DuPont's] Pioneer and Syngenta in second and third place respectively".

However, in soybeans, of which Brazil is a close second to the US in world production, "there is room for further market consolidation", the bank said, after a visit to Brazil.

'Acquisition activity'

Smaller groups "still represent 50-60% of the Brazilian soybean market", equivalent, in acreage terms, the whole corn market.

Brazil's corn area in 2013-14 is estimated by the US Department of Agriculture at 15.0m hectares, compared with 29.9m hectares for soybeans.

While farmers - for whom "it is clear that base see genetics is still the most important decision" - made several references to the foreign seed giants, "there were still several mentions of local seed producers", Credit Suisse said.

This was particularly the case in Mato Grosso, Brazil's top soybean producing state.

"In the intermediate term, we wouldn't be surprised to see some acquisition activity as seed companies aim to further broaden… platforms," through factors such as varying product and geographic coverage.

Monsanto 'game changer'

Brazil's seed sector has already seen considerable consolidation, notably in the mid and late 1990s, when Monsanto acquired the likes of Agroceres and Grupo Maeda, DuPont purchased Sementes Dois Marcos Melhoramento, and Dow acquired Sedol, Semenes Hata among others.

However, local groups retain some clout, if coming up against increasing competition from well-heeled foreign rivals.

Credit Suisse flagged in particular "positive commentary" in Brazil on Monsanto's Intacta soy range, which besides offering some yield advantage, ranging from "a few bags per hectare to better than 10% gains", was seen as allowing for steep cuts in insecticide needs.

"We consistently head that Intacta reduced the overall number of insecticide sprays by up to 80% in some cases which, in conjunction with some yield benefits, could boost soybean margins by 20-30% per hectare," the bank said, viewing the product as a "true game changer".

DuPont, Syngenta

Indeed, Intacta "will impact DuPont's growth in soybeans" in Brazil, although DuPont's "solid pipeline" of products should allow it "to enjoy robust growth in the region" nonetheless.

Syngenta, which lost 1.9 percentage points in Brazilian market share last year thanks largely to delayed approval of its Elatus soybean fungicide, should see this loss "quickly regained" in the second half of this year, now the spray has been cleared by regulators.

"We understand early farmer feedback [to Elatus] is positive," Credit Suisse said, forecasting that Syngenta's "Latin American margins should improve".

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