This time of year is fun here in the offices of CropLife magazine. For several weeks now, the annual CropLife 100 forms have been coming back to us from participants via email, fax and, in a few cases, regular mail. The stories these forms tell will provide the basis for much of the content of our December 2012 issue and likely throughout the first quarter of 2013. As I write this column, approximately 75 of this year’s CropLife 100 retailers have returned their completed forms and, as always, the story they tell is an interesting one.
Now without giving away too much information, it looks as if 2012 will be another stellar sales year for the nation’s top ag retailers. Revenues promise to easily top 2011’s $24.2 billion. Furthermore, the nationwide drought, which received much press throughout the summer months, seems to have had little impact on these sales, with fertilizer and custom application again primed for some good gains. In fact, when asked if the drought had any effect on their businesses, two-thirds of respondents wrote “no impact” on their forms. Another third thought the impact of the drought would be “slight.”
Yet, this seeming cavalier attitude towards the Drought of 2012 is contradicted elsewhere in the survey. In particular, it seems crop protection product sales – specifically fungicides – took a serious sales hit in 2012. In 2011, 81% of CropLife 100 respondents wrote that their fungicides sales increased 1% to 5% during the year. In 2012, this percentage looks to be 30% lower to 51%. In addition, when asked what percentage of their grower-customers applied fungicides as a preventive measure, the most popular answer in the 2011 survey was 25% to 50%. This year, the most popular figure is 6% to 10%.
As I said earlier, none of these figures are final just yet. But it seems that the Drought of 2012 did have an impact after all – just not as intense as was feared it might back when it started in mid-June.