THE AUSTRALIAN cropping sector is watching anxiously to see whether the coronavirus, currently causing severe disruptions to the Chinese economy, will curtail the availability of critical crop protection products.
China is the major producer of both ready-made pesticides and the active ingredients that form the base of products formulated in Australia.
Any disruption in the Chinese supply chain could create potentially debilitating shortages of herbicides in the critical lead up to the planting of the Australian winter crop throughout the autumn period.
At present there is strong demand for products for use to control summer weeds following solid rainfall over much of the country and there have not been any reported issues in getting hold of the necessary volumes, however analysts have warned it is a fast evolving situation.
"Getting access to chemicals once the current supplies held domestically run low could present problems in the short term," said Ross Kingwell, chief economist with the Australian Export Grain Innovation Centre.
"At present we really don't know how the matter is going to progress, we'll get a clearer picture over the coming weeks, however there is some evidence of disruption of supply chains in China at present," Prof Kingwell said.
World chemical news service Agropages reported last week that constraints, such as traffic restrictions and port closures were impacting the movement of product.
In particular it was reported there are issues in moving the chemicals from upcountry warehouses to port due to the traffic restrictions.
Regarding Australian demand, AgForce grains section president Brendan Taylor said usage would be up massively in his area.
"We just haven't had the rain in the past couple of years, so the importation of products and active ingredients was well down," Mr Taylor said.
"This year everyone is going to want something to control summer weeds so there is going to be really solid demand."
"The news out of China is a concern, it is not something that has had direct impacts as yet, but we'll keep a close eye on it, as the last thing we want is people not to get the best start possible when there is potentially a favourable season on the horizon."
With Chinese chemicals ubiquitous in the Australian crop protection sector it is expected any disruptions will impact on all types of crop protection products rather than a particular class, although demand will be higher for herbicides rather than insecticides and fungicides which are used in-crop.