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Editor's Note: Moshe Givon serves as president and CEO of Makhteshim-Agan of North America Inc. (MANA). MANA is the North American company of Makhteshim-Agan Industries Ltd. of Israel. MANA markets a full range of herbicides, insecticides and fungicides as end-use products or as technical active ingredients for formulation into end-use products.

AM: How do you differentiate yourself from other generic crop protection suppliers or marketers?

MG: We see MANA in a unique position among generic suppliers. Makhteshim-Agan has been in the ag chemical business since the 1950s. Today, we are the largest supplier of generic crop protection products in the world. We produce technical products under contract for most of the basic manufacturers, so you know that our production and quality control are highly regarded. We also are ISO 9000 approved.

Until recently, MANA supplied only technical product to formulators and basic manufacturers in the United States. Since 2000, we've been gradually changing that position and selling finished products under the MANA brand. In that time, we hope we have established a reputation for quality and reliability as a supplier. We've significantly added products to our offering each year and intend to continue on this path.

AM: What are the advantages and challenges of producing and marketing generic crop protection products?

MG: Producing and marketing generics has several advantages. Basic manufacturers have generally positioned their products in the marketplace effectively, and retailers and users already know how to use them. Registration issues are usually well defined, and although the generic registrant pays its fair share of the cost to defend the registration, the pathway to the defense of molecules is often clear. Frequently, the basic manufacturer's production process was developed several years ago. Although the process may have been tweaked along the way, and the plant depreciated, the generic often has the advantage of incorporating newer technology and information, an alternate process, and synergism of production, allowing a lower cost position.

The generic entry faces a major challenge in the "bundling of products" offered to the distribution channel. It is one of the reasons that basic manufacturers continue to maintain market share of off-patent products long after the patent has expired in the United States. Generic manufacturers have significantly fewer personnel, limited product portfolios and far less money for promotion efforts.

For MANA, these limitations mean we have chosen traditional distribution/retailers to reach the U.S. market. We don't see the Internet as a viable alternative for distribution and definitely don't have the resources and manpower to be able to service growers and dealers directly.

AM: How will the industry's trend of shifting R&D resources to seed technology versus crop protection affect MANA?

MG: It will certainly affect our choice of which products to enter, and it will probably affect individual products. But in general, as a generic, we have more flexibility than a basic manufacturer and can adapt to the changing market more effectively. For example, Roundup Ready soybeans have negatively affected our trifluralin business but offer opportunities for our recently registered Arrow brand clethodim. It will also present opportunities for other products as RR corn becomes an increasing reality. In permanent crops, where MANA is strong, seed technology won't be a factor.

AM: What is the future for generic crop protection product suppliers?

MG: Availability of generic products will increase in the United States. The question is how they will reach the grower. The lines between basic and generic suppliers have become much more blurred. Mergers have reduced the number of major manufacturers. At the same time, these basic manufacturers have taken a much more aggressive stance on older chemistry, including adding generic products to their portfolio. Basic manufacturers now sell off-patent products, such as glyphosate and chlorpyriphos, as part of their portfolio.

At the same time, new generic suppliers are appearing in the U.S. market for the first time. Some of these have been operating globally for many years, while others are new entries. Some have good manufacturing and quality control capabilities, and others are not as well grounded. But in general, the influence of generics can only continue to grow.

For MANA, our goal is for the marketplace to get to know our name and associate us with quality product, reliability and a commitment to the ag chem market, including introducing new products. AM

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