With a wide range of applications, pyrethroids which have been present for over half a century are definitely here to stay. Partha Dutta, Vice President and Marketing Head for Bayer Vapi - the single largest synthetic pyrethroids production facility in the world - highlights the trends affecting this industry. He also explains how pyrethroids provide an economical and safe alternative to solve global challenges – increasing crop yields to combat hunger and eliminating malaria.
Today pyrethroids find usage in major applications across crop care, environmental health and pest protection as well as animal health. They account for around 20% of global insecticide market1 and since they are significantly more effective against a wider range of insects, they are considered highly economical & beneficial by most farmers. They are fast-acting and very effective against chewing insects and have very low water solubility. This also means pyrethroids are less likely to build up to dangerous levels in the environment. They are low in toxicity to mammals and birds and require very low dosage to kill insects compared to organophosphate pesticides. They maintain insecticidal activity over an extended period of time which helps in controlling overlapping generations of pests. Finally, they are easily bio-degradable in nature. In simple words, pyrethroids are a safe chemistry, they have a wide spectrum of usage and are cost effective when considering farm economics per acreage
If we look back in time, pyrethroids had a major application in the cotton industry which provided higher returns on investment. With the launch of BT cotton in India in the early 2000s, and subsequent reduction in the need for pesticides to be sprayed on a crop, the pyrethroids market took a beating. The area under BT cotton cultivation, which was hardly 0.29 lakh ha (0.38 %) out of 76.70 lakh in 2002-03, increased to 119.40 lakh ha out of 128.19 lakh hectares in 2014-15 showing more than 93.14 % adoption within a span of 13 years.3 The demand for pyrethroids remained stagnant till around 2015 and manufacturers began looking for its applications in other sectors like rice, fruits and vegetables. During 2016, the pyrethroids industry witnessed a resurgent demand primarily triggered by the need for a replacement of some organophosphates (OP) and carbamates which were under review for their high toxicity risks. On the other hand, pyrethroids being a safe chemistry – became an automatic choice as it balanced environmental concerns and input costs.
Additionally, pyrethroids found potential in a variety of sectors including home and garden & animal health applications. In the area of vector control, they are used to impregnate bed nets, which helps to reduce the spread of malaria as part of the World Health Organization’s Global Malaria Programme. Malaria is a potential life-threatening disease in many tropical and subtropical regions mainly in Eastern and Central African countries.2 Because humans possess enzymes that quickly break down pyrethroid insecticides, the pyrethroids are only toxic to humans when exposed to in large quantities or over long periods of time. A recent approval by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA)of the active ingredient Transfluthrin for usage on uniforms of the US soldiers to combat mosquito infestation opens the door for use by the general population in residential areas such as recreational vehicles, campers and garages.
India has emerged as the biggest manufacturer of pyrethroids. More than half of the global demand for pyrethroids comes from China which used to manufacture pyrethroids after importing intermediates from India. However, China’s pursuit of the ‘Blue Sky’ initiative to realize green GDP lead to the closure of several chemical plants. This in turn resulted in higher volumes of pyrethroids being exported out of India. The pyrethroid market in India is expected to grow @12% CAGR while the global market is expected to reach USD 1.6 bn by 2023 from the present level of USD 1.2 bn.3 The key driving factor will be regulatory outlook, China factor, wide spectrum crop application and the substitution of organophosphorus compounds.
As a class of compounds, pyrethroids are not just a recent development but have been in the market for over 50 years. In September this year, we celebrated the successful completion of 40 years of one of Bayer’s leading pyrethroid insecticides called Decis (Deltamethrin) which offers farmers an economic and effective solution for a wide range of crops and pests. Our Bayer manufacturing site at Vapi, which is over 26 years old, was one of the first few to begin manufacturing pyrethroids as well as Cypermethric Acid Chloride (CMAC) which is a key pre-cursor required for the production of pyrethroids. Today, Bayer Vapi is the single largest synthetic pyrethroids production facility in the world. From basic chemicals to active ingredients and intermediates, our site is fully backward integrated and our new CMA plant strengthens our position in the industry to cater to the growing demand of pyrethroids. And at the end of the day, through all our initiatives, we remain committed to finding solutions to some of the growing global challenges of our time.