16 JULY, 2018
When it came time for Belchim Crop Protection to decide on the home for its United States headquarters, the European company looked at the Research Triangle in North Carolina. It looked in Kansas City and it looked in Dallas.
So, naturally the agribusiness has set up HQ in a business park on Centerville Road where Prices Corner meets Greenville.
Now, the company with a growing portfolio of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other biological products is poised to take a larger market share in the U.S.
Last year, Belchim, which reported $600 million in sales in 2017, acquired Prescott, Arizona-based Engage Agro USA, laying the groundwork for major U.S. expansion.
The U.S. arm of Belchim plans $50 million in growth over the next three years. U.S. general manager Tom Wood said the growth will be aimed at expanding from niche fruit and vegetable crops into large row crops like corn.
Most of Belchim’s U.S. customers are on the west coast. The expansion into row crops will open up east coast markets like Delaware, where corn and soy crops are aplenty. Wood said Belchim is going to bring a unique herbicide to the U.S. market that is not there today.
Setting up in Delaware, of course, puts Belchim in the backyard of DuPont, which will live in on Delaware with its Corteva Acgriscience spinoff. Chemical giant FMC also makes Philadelphia its home. Belchim and FMC worked together in 2013, when Belchim granted FMC exclusive rights to develop, register, manufacture and sell Belchim’s proprietary fungicide valifenalate, in North America, Latin America and elsewhere.
Belchim later bought back FMC’s stake in the company after FMC acquired Cheminova.
“It’s a David and Goliath story,” Wood said. “We’re up against giants.
“Our strategy is not to go head-to-head with the basics like Corteva and not to go head-to-head in national distribution… Our strategy is to provide something for those types of companies from a life cycle management perspective. We fill the gaps particularly on weeds that escape their products.
“So it’s something they can add to their portfolio that is cost effective for them, for the grower and allows us to participate in market and take a market share without threatening the giants in any way.”
Belchim currently has just 12 employees in the U.S., up from seven at the beginning of the year. Some of those are out in the field working in regional sales positions across the country.
Four employees work full-time out of Delaware. Wood, a Chester native, said Belchim could have around a dozen or so employees in Delaware in two years.
“We will bring a unique herbicide to the U.S. market that is not there today,” he said. “So it will be a new innovation that the growers will appreciate. They’re already using it in mint crops as an emergency use approved by the EPA. It just gets the really tough weeds that no one else can get and it works well with every major herbicide out in the market.
“A lot of companies will enter the United States and come in with a, ‘Me, too.’ We will have something new that hasn’t been seen in the United States for years or they’ve never seen before.
“Once people start seeing our portfolio, they invite us back.”