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Glyphosate prices skyrocket on short supplies

Worldwide demand for glyphosate has sent prices for generic glyphosate up 80 percent in the past few months and prices for Monsanto proprietary products up 35 percent to 40 percent.

Retailers and wholesalers report they are already on allocation for the herbicide, and most are expecting the situation to get worse before it gets better.

The reason is consumption of glyphosate worldwide is up 37 percent due to rapidly increasing acreages of Roundup-resistant crops and simply a growth in all commodity acres due to high world prices. Glyphosate production has increased 20 percent during the same period, despite the fact there are now 37 glyphosate-producing plants in China.

By comparison, Monsanto has fewer than 10 manufacturing plants, Greg Cassel, Monsanto retail sales manager from Lodi, Calif., told a group of producers recently at a company-sponsored gathering in Los Banos, Calif.

The availability and price of Roundup/generic glyphosate was a hot topic during grower meetings Monsanto/Deltapine sponsored this spring.

Cassel would not tell growers there would be a shortage of the popular herbicide this summer, but he did suggest California producers order in what they think they need for the year early. He admitted Monsanto supplies in certain locations may “temporarily be out for five or six days” when weather warms and demand starts increasing.

“If you wait until summer, the Midwest may get all of it,” he said. The days of cheap, generic glyphosate are also gone for now.

China, a significant U.S. glyphosate producer since Roundup went off patent in 2000, experiences energy shortages, specifically electricity, which has hindered its processing capabilities and increased its production costs. In addition, a worldwide shortage of phosphate, a major component in glyphosate, has limited production.

The weak dollar also is impacting glyphosate shipments to the U.S. Cassel says China is diverting production to Europe and Russia rather than take weak U.S. dollars for it.

The case of high prices and shortages for the popular herbicide is just one part of the shortage story. Fertilizer prizes are high and supplies short, according to several wholesalers/retailers. A booming world agricultural economy is also putting pressure on some crop protection chemicals as well.

Cassel, naturally, called his employer the most reliable supplier of guaranteed quality glyphosate. He cited a recent 2.5 million recall of generic glyphosate in Canada because it did not meet the labeled 41 percent concentrate level.

Deltapine cotton

Delta and Land Co. cotton marketing and breeding program will focus on Pima cotton varieties in the San Joaquin Valley in the future, according to Glenn Powell of Visalia, Calif., longtime regional manager for Deltapine cotton, who is now a seed and product sales rep for Monsanto (with Monsanto taking over the seed company).

He told growers that with maybe 75,000 acres of Acala/upland in the valley this season, Delta and Pine Land is abandoning its Acala breeding program. A recent National Cotton Council pre-season acreage estimates puts California's upland acreage at 91,000, a drop of 53 percent from last season.

In 1991 there were 1.2 million acres of California cotton.

While the focus will be on Pimas, Powell said the company will still market existing Acalas, including a newly approved Roundup Flex variety this season. Powell added he believes Acala cotton's future will be to market it as premium-priced roller ginned Acala.

The nation's largest cotton seed supplier will continue to bring “high quality” uplands into the valley, but its primary focus for the valley will be seed production and is offering a $200 per acre premium to produce certified seed for the company to be sold across the U.S. and the world. The San Joaquin Valley is considered one of the most ideal seed-producing areas in the world and most of the major cotton seed companies have large seed increase acreages in the valley.

Powell points outs that the DP non-Acalas yield significantly more lint than the current SJV Acalas. “Even if there is a discount on these uplands, they yield more lint to offset any discount,” Powell noted.

Powell predicts the Pima acreage this season will be about 225,000 acres. NCC agrees with its 204,000-acre estimate. However, the final number will be almost totally dependent on planting season weather. A wet, cold spring could drop that acreage significantly.

Most of Deltapine Pimas are early to mid-season varieties.

Excluding the Phytogen varieties grown mostly by the valley's largest Pima producer, J.G. Boswell, and a partner in Phytogen, Powell said Delta and Pine varieties were planted on 67 percent of the 190,000 non-Boswell acreage last season.

DP HTO will be offered again this season, but Monsanto/Delta and Pine will focus on DP 353, DP 340 and its newest, approved Pima, DP 357.

In 14 University of California variety trials over the past three years, Powell says 353 and 340 have been top yielders.

“DP 357 is similar to 340 and is widely adapted to many valley locations. It yielded 3.2 bales last year at Corcoran,” said Powell.

It also topped the 2006 San Joaquin Valley cotton board trials with an average yield of 1,360 pounds per acre. However, none of Delta and Pine's Pimas are resistant to Race 4 Fusarium wilt, a devastating disease to Extra Long Staple cotton.

Growers are anxiously awaiting the first Roundup resistant Pima, and Powell said Delta and Pine has one on seed increase in Costa Rica, but the company, like all Pima breeders, is waiting for Japan to approve the shipment of transgenic Pima cottons into that country. Until that happens, transgenic Pima varieties will sit on the shelf.

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