"The main challenge of the transition to biorational solutions is to change the farmer's mindset, as these products work in a completely different way than traditional pesticides and require more technical training."
How has Grupo Versa evolved during 2022?
Grupo Versa is comprised of strategic divisions; seeds, crop protection products, biorational, (botanical and microbial pesticides, and other organic products for pest control and diseases that have low toxicity and minimal environmental impact). We also have an urban area that focuses on household and industrial pest control products. We are currently in the process of registering our materials in other countries, and throughout 2022, we have been consolidating our portfolio to maximize our potential, which has been an ongoing process.
In addition, we have been working on building closer partnerships with farmers through technical assistance and providing training on the application of our products.
How would the proposed General Health Law regarding pesticides and regulation of bio-inputs affects the agricultural industry?
Should this law be approved without major changes, it would have a great impact on agriculture and would require a strong reconfiguration of the entire crop protection industry. The General Health Law aims to eliminate the use of so-called highly hazardous pesticides (HHP). Although the objective of sustainable agriculture is agreed on by all, the proposed law plans to eliminate the products without making a risk assessment on a scientific basis and measuring the impact that this decision could have on Mexico's agricultural productive sector.
The Law, as proposed, is too sudden and prohibits a significant number of the real solutions that farmers use to control pests in their fields. The most affected parties would be small growers, as they would have to replace many of the materials in use with more expensive pesticides. Consequently, the increase in operating costs would have a huge impact on the industry, as small farmers are the base of the agricultural sector in Mexico.
The government has not really calculated the implications of the law, so it is important to conduct more scientific research and to continue the dialogue between all of the interested parties that would be affected by the law. In addition, the agricultural sector would need an appropriate time to implement the proposed changes to avoid disruptions in the food supply chain.
Due to disruptions in the global supply chain, there has been a growth in the use of illegal pesticides. How has Grupo Versa addressed this problem?
One of the logical consequences of the proposed law would be an increase in the demand for illegal pesticides, because formal suppliers would stop selling the banned products, but the informal sector would try to offer them without any restrictions.
It is estimated that just over 12% of the pesticides being used in agriculture in Mexico are unregistered products; this is a serious issue for the entire agricultural sector as it affects not only the producers, but more importantly, it can affect the health of the final consumer of the crops. We have been working closely with our association UMFFAAC to facilitate educational forums at the community level to provide farmers with the proper training to make more informed decisions about the products they use in the fields.
What new technologies is Grupo Versa developing to address climate change?
We have invested in our R&D department to develop more sustainable products. An example of this is our biorational materials, which plan to be a strong alternative for organic farming, as well as to be used alongside chemical options as integrated pest management. The main challenge of the transition to biorational solutions is to change the farmer's mindset, as these products work in a completely different way than traditional pesticides and require more technical training. Grupo Versa is also implementing sustainability in its operations, as we are investing to upgrade our plants with new technology that maximizes efficiency and reduces energy consumption.
Where does Grupo Versa see expansion opportunities in 2023?
Mexico is our most important market given the vitality of the agricultural sector, so we want to continue to grow within this market. However, we are working to develop commercial partnerships in Central and South America, and we see a future potential for growth in the US.