Recently, I had the chance to attend and speak at the Semi-Annual Meeting of the Biopesticide Industry Alliance (BPIA) in Sacramento, CA. For the 140 attendees at this event, I tried to rely how biopesticides are viewed by the majority of ag retailers, both in positive and negative terms.
As a category, biopesticides have shown steady growth, said Bill Stoneman, BPIA executive director, growing to represent approximately 5% (or $1 billion) of U.S. crop protection product sales in 2013. Furthermore, this percentage is expected to more than double over the next seven years. Primarily, said Stoneman, biopesticides have found agricultural market users in the fruit, vegetable and nut tree areas.
However, with the primarily corn and soybean grower-customers of most ag retailers, market usage seems a bit more spotty. Before giving my talk, I called on several ag retailers I know to find out their opinions of biopesticides. I also asked if they currently offered these products to customers.
Most did not. Others had tried them in the past and subsequently dropped them when their effectiveness claims didn’t pan out.
For many ag retailers, however, whether or not they carried biopesticides boiled down to two factors – money and interest. “The inventory carrying costs for biopesticides are too high,” said one. “There has been a lack of interest from large growers for these products compared with regular chemical products,” said another.
When I asked these ag retailers what it would take for their companies to distribute biopesticides, most said more education from biopesticide suppliers on how their products work would be useful, along with “some sort of inventory protection or return policy.”
One was confident that biopesticides would gain more general market acceptance as bigger crop protection players entered the market (which is already happening) and new products come into play. “There are some really good products yet to come, such as DNA-specific ones that will be a huge benefit for our grower-customers,” said this company representative.
So while the market of biopesticides seems small right now, the future certainly appears much brighter.