FIELD ADVISOR

Mexico 2014 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Norma Patricia Rodriguez Aguilar, CEO of Agrovant, on the range of services offered, relationships with clients, and the challenges of the Mexican market.

Norma Patricia Rodriguez Aguilar
BIOGRAPHY
Norma Patricia Rodriguez Aguilar is an engineer agronomist who specialized in agricultural parasitology, and holds a Master’s degree in agribusiness, and a diploma in foreign trade and customs. Previous positions have been in farm credit and insurance, researching plant diseases, coordinating imports and exports of agricultural products, and verifying authorized pesticide companies. In addition, she was involved in registering and conducting regulatory affairs for pesticides (agricultural use, industrial, domestic) and fertilizers.

What are the main services offered by Agrovant in Mexico?

We are a consulting company that offers guidance regarding the regulation of pesticides and fertilizers in Mexico; pesticides not only in the agricultural area but also in the industrial, domestic, and urban areas. Agrovant provides guidance regarding all the procedures and documents that need to be handed to the state, and track the documents until the procedure is finished. We assist our clients throughout the whole procedure either alone as a company or with alliances with other participants of the process, such as universities that are authorized by the Secretariat of Agriculture to develop efficiency studies of the products in Mexico.

On the other hand, we need to be in contact with law firms to assist those foreign companies that want to establish an office in Mexico. Finally, we also need to be in contact with laboratories in both Mexico and abroad for they are the ones who make the studies of toxicology available for the companies. We, the three associates who created Agrovant, began in 2012, and now we have more than 10 years of experience of supporting and guiding companies in the regulation of pesticides, plant nutrients, toxic or hazardous substances and materials, and their establishments. These procedures take a long time, usually between two and three years.

How would you describe your relationship with your clients?

We have established a strong ethical policy in the company. The data of all our clients is secret, and we sign many confidential contracts. We never mention any names or data of our clients, not only because we sign these confidential contracts, but also for ethical reasons because they are competitors in the market. We have seen the birth of many companies that have reached a very size. Agrovant has clients from Belgium, Russia, India, China, and Spain, among others. In every country of the world, the regulatory authorities are complicated, but especially here in Mexico. Hence, we are here to facilitate this process to foreign or national companies to take their first steps in the market.

What are the challenges of this market?

Many people are against pesticides because they believe that we should go back to organic production. Nevertheless, due to the increasing world population we need a large volume of food, which cannot be grown without pesticides. Besides, no one likes to bite an apple and find a worm. Everyone prefers a shiny apple. To satisfy the high demands of the public, we need chemicals. Restrictions regarding the use of toxic products have increased all over the world, meaning we are looking for healthier and environmentally friendly alternatives, which is the trend today. In Mexico, national companies are not molecule producers, but they produce generics or plaster for international companies. The companies that produce generics need active ingredients that come from India or China, and then they mix the products here and register the final product in Mexico. Many international companies bring the mixed product and just plaster it here. Registration costs of chemical products in Mexico are established according the level of toxicology of the product; the more toxic the more expensive. The total administrative costs in Mexico for the registration of a product range from Ps18,000 to Ps60,000. Nevertheless those are the costs established by the government; if the company needs to make any field studies or tests then costs can increase.

How will the new reforms taking place in the country impact your business?

The tendency of the market is to produce products with a lower level of toxicity, not only because of the higher demand but also because in terms of regulations it is easier to register healthier and environmentally friendly products. In Mexico, there is a trend to produce organic products for export to Europe. Other countries, such as the US, are limiting the level of pesticide residues allowed in vegetables. People look for alternatives because the world is already too polluted; however, I see it more in the long term than in the short run. In terms of fertilizers, we saw a privatization of the market that led to an increasing number of companies producing fertilizers. As a company that gives consulting services, a more regulated market is a more complicated market that needs the services that we provide.