Syngenta Boosts Seed Sales to a Russia Yearning Big Harvests

  • Corn seed volumes rose 20% this season as crop prices climbed
  • Company expanded its sunflower-seed market in Ukraine

Syngenta AG sold more seeds in Russia this season as farmers benefited from higher domestic prices for their crops.

Sales volumes for corn and sunflower seeds increased 20 percent in the 2015-16 season ending June from a year earlier, said Alexander Berkovskiy, head of the Swiss company’s operations in the former nations of the Soviet Union. Sales of sugar-beet seeds rose 15 percent, he said in an interview, declining to give levels.

Syngenta, which says it’s one of the top three suppliers of seed and chemicals for protecting crops to Black Sea grain growers such as Russia and Ukraine, raised prices for farmers after a ruble rout in 2014 to compensate for the weaker exchange rate. Imported seeds tend to produce larger yields than domestic varieties.

“Farmers accepted the price increase because they can make up for it” with higher ruble revenues, Berkovskiy said. “They’ve even focused more on high technology.”

Biggest Crop

Russian corn prices jumped to a record in May on export demand, according to Moscow-based consultant SovEcon. The country’s biggest ever crop this season also helped to make it the world’s fifth-largest exporter, displacing the European Union where drought damaged the crop, U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show.

Farmers in Russia planned to expand corn planting this spring before wet weather in May hampered field work. Still, some analysts expect the crop to exceed last year’s 13.2 million metric tons.

The market for seed sales in Russia was valued at 50 billion rubles ($766 million) in 2015, the Agriculture Ministry estimated. Imports’ share of the local seed market varied from 75 percent of total demand for sugar beets to 45 percent for corn that year, it said. While Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of wheat, Syngenta doesn’t sell seeds for the grain.

Russian meat producers who also grow grains are major buyers of imported seed because they want to boost their own feed output, Berkovskiy said. Rising costs of feed from other suppliers is curbing margins of pork and poultry companies like Cherkizovo Group PJSC.

The company sold more crop-protection products this season, Berkovskiy said. Seed and crop-protection sales involving credit, making up most of the total in the country, came to about 20 billion rubles, with farmers paying after crops are reaped, he said.

Sales volumes of sunflower seeds for planting in Ukraine increased 15 percent in the season, Berkovskiy said. The country, the biggest grower, is planting a record amount. The seeds are crushed to make cooking oil, mostly for export. Corn-seed sales declined about 10 percent because of large carry-over stocks, Berkovskiy said.

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