May 6, 1998
Top Ten Pesticide Companies See Profits Rise
Pesticide company profits measured in national currency sales
rose significantly in 1997. In general, the world's top ten
companies enjoyed strong sales in North America, Latin
America and Europe, and sales in Asia and Africa were
reported as favorable. Sales of genetically modified crops
were an important contributor to growth, especially for
AgrEvo and Monsanto.
Novartis remains the world's largest pesticide company,
accounting for some US$4.2 billion in agrochemical sales. In
national currency terms, 1997 sales were almost 21% higher
than in 1996. Novartis is optimistic about its development of
agricultural biotechnology products, particularly since the
European Union member states voted this year to approve more
genetically modified crops. The company reports that its seed
division was "constrained" by restrictions on introduction of
genetically modified maize in Europe in 1997. Novartis is
concerned that it has no seed which is tolerant to a Novartis
herbicide, and it is currently researching possible options.
According to Dr. Wolfgang Samo, head of Novartis'
Agribusiness, one of the company's biggest obstacles to
increasing sales in ag-biotechnology is that the public
trusts environmental groups more than they trust industry or
Novartis is also working to sell more conventional
pesticides, so that it can dominate the world insecticide
market and maintain its top position in the fungicides
market. Novartis has a goal of releasing one new pesticide
active ingredient per year.
Zeneca, the third biggest pesticide company, saw national
currency profits sink due to currency factors; however,
underlying profit growth was reported at 19%. Zeneca's
biggest sales were in herbicides, which rose 8%. The company
achieved "double-digit" growth with the maize herbicide
Sustain (acetochlor) and the cereal herbicide Achieve
(tralkoxydim). Gramaxone (paraquat) continues to be a
significant product for Zeneca, which saw sales of this
herbicide do well in Asia and Latin America. According to one
company official, 1997 was a "good paraquat year in Central
The German multinational BASF reported the greatest increase,
with national currency sales rising more than 42% from 1996.
The company's worldwide pesticide sales reached approximately
US$1.8 billion. Herbicides accounted for 60% of sales -- a
50% increase over 1996. In North America, BASF benefited from
selling former Sandoz maize herbicides -- BASF acquired this
line of pesticides when Sandoz merged with Ciba in 1996.
Latin American sales grew 39%, thanks in part to BASF's new
fungicide Opus (epoxiconazole), which is used on coffee.
Pesticide sales of top ten agrochemical companies -- 1997
Company Sales in US$ millions % change % change
since 1996 nat'l
1. Novartis 4,199 3.2 20.7
2. Monsanto 3,126 22.3 22.3
3. Zeneca 2,674 1.7 -3.1
4. DuPont 2,518 1.9 1.9
5. AgrEvo 2,352 -2.9 12.0
6. Bayer 2,254 -3.8 11.0
7. Rhone 2,202 -1.8 12.0
8. Cyanamid 2,119 6.5 6.5
9. Dow Agro- 2,050 2.0 2.0
10. BASF 1,855 23.4 42.4
Sources: Agrow: World Crop Protection News, April 10, March
27, March 13 and February 27, 1998.
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