The industry for biological crop protection in Asia (USD 300 million) is currently small relative to conventional crop protection strategies such as chemicals. This is set to change as global companies with products able to deal with local problems begin to move into the region through partnerships and product registrations.

The industry for biologicals in Asia is expected to develop in the years ahead in response to chemical residues in food and issues of pest tolerance creating significant opportunities for research, collaboration, investment and growth.

US company Marrone Bio (USD 18.7 million, 2016), an innovator in the biological sector and a key player in the industry globally has recently signed a partnership to distribute some of its products throughout Vietnam and Cambodia. These products are registered for all major cash crops in these countries and have shown high efficacy in other parts of the world suggesting potential for large-scale commercial success.

Likewise, consulting company SCC have recently deployed two managers in China dedicated to biological registrations in exchange for helping clients in China to register  products in the EU through close cooperation with the National Plant Protectorate.

SSC also stated in a recent interview article that China, like the EU and the USA are developing new legislation and procedures specific to biological controls. It is these simpler, less stringent regulations suited to the less potent biological modes of action which will allow the sector to outpace conventional chemicals in terms of growth in the years ahead.

China is of course key to growth in the region. Around eight per cent (8%) of crop protection in China is reported to be biological in nature, around three per cent (3%) higher than the global average. The biological industry in China is forecasted to grow from USD 220 million in 2016 to over USD 1.3 billion by 2025 (CAGR 22%), a forecast largely based on the increasingly favourable policies implemented over the last five years. Registration of chemicals is also increasingly difficult which has led to the shutdown of significant numbers of manufacturers.

Growth is expected to be similar elsewhere in Asia, with forecasts of nearly 19% in Indonesia expected – nearly double that of chemicals – with Spanish company Seipasa involved in developing the industry and the most significant sector being bioherbicides in rice at nearly 50% of all biopesticide use.

It is important however that a global effort is made to learn from one another in terms of developing registration procedures suited to biological modes of action. In the EU for example, approval times are a fifth that of a chemical registration, and the dossier required for submission is considerably simpler. Fast, simple registration procedures allow newcomers into the industry to disrupt without the burden of huge initial costs associated with chemical registrations.

The other factor in continued growth post the next five years is a consistent commitment to research into novel biological MOAs and new applications for existing MOAs. Biologicals are prone to issues of host resistance in the same way as chemicals, therefore the challenge to find new biologicals to replace legacy Bt and Trichoderma in certain instances will be a necessary challenge. For example in India, the government has already had to issue pheromone traps to cotton farmers on a significant scale to deal with outbreaks of pests demonstrating resistance to Bt-modified strains.

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