Bunge banned Syngenta corn ‘to save China trade’

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Bunge’s decision to ban corn grown from cutting-edge Syngenta seed – a curb which has sparked a legal battle – was imposed for fear of damaging America’s nascent exports of the grain to China, the crop processor said.

Soren Schroder, the chief executive of Bunge’s North America division, said he was "surprised and disappointed" that Syngenta was seeking in court a result that would "put at risk a major export market for US corn producers – China".

Handling Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera seed, which is genetically modified against insect pests such as corn borer and corn rootworm, would risk contaminating the Bunge crop handling chain with a variety banned in China – and threaten repercussions.

China, while historically a minor corn importer, has emerged as a medium-ranked buyer, with purchases forecast at 2.0m tonnes in 2011-12, with its ability to produce the grain failing to keep up with demand both from hog farmers and from industrial users turning it into the likes of ethanol and sweeteners.

And, as the world’s second-largest corn consumer, China is viewed has having significant potential to raise its imports.

‘Price benefits’

"Our obligation to our farmer customers it to provide access to the global marketplace and the price benefits of that access," Mr Schroder said.

"Syngenta’s decision to commercialise Agrisure Viptera should not foreclose our ability to sell to a major market – China."

While Swiss-based Syngenta believes it will early in 2012 gain Chinese approval for the corn variety, Bunge "must protect the integrity of our export supply chain by not accepting Agrisure Viptera and other varieties that do not have major market approval," Mr Schroder added.

"China is currently the seventh largest destination for US corn with imports expected to grow significantly this year."

‘Arbitrary actions’

The comments come the day after Syngenta revealed that it was suing Bunge for failing to accept Agrisure Viptera corn, in violation of "a number of federal and state laws".

"When a product has been legally approved growers should be able to use that technology without subsequently being subjected to arbitrary actions," David Morgan, head of Syngenta’s US seeds business, said.

After being approved by US authorities, as Agrisure Viptera has been, a seed should be able to be used by farmers "without subsequently being subjected to arbitrary actions".

Bunge shares closed 4.1% higher at $62.04 in New York. In Switzerland, Syngenta shares closed up 2.6% at SFr233.10.

Separately, Barclays Capital analysts initiated coverage on shares in both Bunge and meat giant Tyson Foods with "buy" recommendations.


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