BASF said that 2014 had "begun well" for its agrichemicals division,
lifted by strong demand for agrichemicals in its Europe, where disease
pressures on grain crops have been enhanced by a mild winter.
Revenues at the German conglomerate's agricultural solutions
business rose 6.2% to E1.65bn in the first three months of the year, the
fastest growth of any of its divisions.
The increase, which BASF termed a "good start to the year",
reflected growth in both sales volumes, of 9%, and product prices, of 3%, which
more than offset a dent to the result from a stronger euro.
And growth was particularly strong in Europe, where "sales
were considerably higher than in the same quarter of the previous year", buoyed
by the boost to crop diseases from a mild winter.
'Sharp increase in
"The mild, moister weather conditions in the winter months
led to a sharp increase in demand, particularly for cereal fungicides," BASF
The comments come the day after agronomists in the UK warned
of "high" levels of fungal diseases, such as yellow rust, in domestic winter wheat.
In fact, for BASF, Germany and "broad areas of Eastern
Europe" proved particularly strong markets.
Sales growth in the US and Asia was described as "slight",
while BASF's takings in South American fell "considerably" year on year, depressed
by weak currencies, such as Argentina' peso.
In Brazil – which during the quarter suffered drought in
centre east areas, sending coffee and sugar prices soaring, and excessive rains
further west - "unfavourable weather" depressed sales to levels "considerably
below" those a year ago.
The results are the latest for what has been a mixed quarter
for agrichemical groups, some of which have seen strong agrichemical sales in
Brazil, where farmers have been fighting growing pressure from Helicoverpa moth
caterpillars, so-called corn earworm, which attacks the likes of soybean and
cotton crops too.
However, groups such as Syngenta which sell seed also have
seen this market sapped by a drop in Brazilian sowings of safrinha, or second
crop, corn, besides by the late start to the spring sowing season in North
America, which witnessed an unusually long and harsh winter.
BASF reported a 1% drop to E19.5bn in group revenues for the
quarter, while underlying operating profits fell 3% to E2.1bn, in line with
Underlying operating profits in agriculture rose 2.4% to