In the first quarter Syngenta achieved strong underlying sales growth after a record year in 2008. Sales increased by 7 percent at constant exchange rates (CER); reported sales were 4 percent lower at $3.6 billion owing to the significant appreciation of the dollar.
Crop Protection sales were 8 percent higher (CER) at $2.6 billion. Excluding Professional Products, sales rose by 10 percent with volumes up 2 percent and price realization ahead of target at 8 percent. Sales increased in Europe with a strong performance in Western Europe, notably France; in Eastern Europe growth was led by Russia and Poland. In NAFTA, Syngenta capitalized on its strong market position and saw good growth across all product lines. Second season sales in Latin America were lower owing to drought in Argentina and southern Brazil and to careful risk management. Growth in Asia-Pacific was particularly strong in the emerging markets demonstrating the resilience of the farm economy in these countries and the success of Syngenta’s tailored product offer.
Product line growth was led by herbicides: selectives performed particularly well in NAFTA and in non-selectives demand for TOUCHDOWN® remained strong. Fungicide sales increased with the main season still to come. Insecticides saw a slight decline owing to lower Latin American sales. Seed Care continued its record of double digit growth helped by the registration of CRUISER® in France. Professional Products were affected by the impact of the economic environment on the lawn & garden and home care markets.
Sales of new products – AVICTA®, AXIAL®, DURIVO® and REVUS® – increased by more than 40 percent demonstrating the continuing willingness of growers to adopt new technology.
Seeds sales were 3 percent higher (CER) at $1.1 billion. Corn & soybean sales increased by 7 percent despite delayed planting decisions in the USA and corn acreage contraction in Europe; growth primarily reflected portfolio improvements in corn and price increases. In Diverse Field Crops, sales of sunflower and sugar beet were lower with tight risk management in Eastern Europe. In Vegetables & Flowers, the downturn in consumer purchasing affected flowers but sales overall were slightly higher.
For the full year, despite adverse currency effects and ongoing tight risk management, the company continues to target growth in earnings per share.