2022 Crop Input Outlook: Staying Ahead of the Curve
Today’s crop protection product marketplace is dynamic and complex. Complications like rising energy prices and worldwide supply chain and logistical disruptions driven by COVID-19 are driving a lot of change for the ag retail sector. While factors like these will continue to weigh on the crop protection and fertilizer marketplace in 2022, Grow West has learned from what’s happened and will apply that education to maintaining product availability when and where customers need it.
“Supply chain disruptions and rapidly rising energy costs have affected everyone differently in 2021, so there are some who feel like 2022 could be even more difficult,” said Grow West Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Lucas Schmidt. “But it’s not all doom and gloom; we’re optimistic that the lessons we learned in 2021 will help us plan ahead and have better discussions in 2022. Despite the challenges we’ve faced, we have an optimistic outlook for the future of our business and the future of California agriculture.”
No more ‘just in time’
One of the biggest lessons of the recent past is the declining utility of “just in time” crop protection product and fertilizer inventory management. Though not every link in the supply chain has bent or broken in the last two years, disruptions in chemical manufacturing, limited labor availability and global shipping delays have sometimes led to shortened product availability. That ultimately leaves customers with few, if any, options for prudently managing their crop protection.
“Just-in-time inventory management isn’t preferred anymore,” Schmidt said. “In some cases, manufacturing can shut down with little or no warning, or shipping can be delayed at one of our ports. Some of these dynamics have created problems we’ve never seen or experienced prior to COVID-19.”
There are options to proactively manage despite an unreliable supply chain. That’s part of the reason Schmidt and Grow West Director of Procurement and Supplier Relations Robbie Malm are optimistic heading into 2022.
“We’re looking out further than we have historically and building in extra lead time based on what our industry partners and intelligence are telling us. We balance our insights against what we expect our crop protection needs to be,” Malm said. “We’ve also made investments in warehouse storage to uniquely position ourselves in the marketplace and ensure we have the products our customers need. We’re doing our best to make sure we continue to be the most reliable supplier of crop inputs, fertilizer and crop protection products.”
Communication will be key in 2022
Enhanced planning and communication aren’t just between Grow West and its distributors and suppliers. Malm said his team will be communicating more with grower customers to ensure they have the clearest possible picture of crop protection and fertilizer plans and requirements for 2022.
“It’s about total engagement on both sides of the equation. We’re working with our suppliers in a more intense fashion than ever to ensure our forecasts are accurate and based on our needs and objectives,” said Malm. “In turn, we’re approaching discussions with our customers with a new intensity to get a clear picture of their needs, too. Overall, we want to work in partnership with both our suppliers and customers to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.”
While Schmidt said Grow West is doing things like working closer with a higher number of suppliers to ensure crop protection and fertilizer inventory, there are things that customers can do to help ensure success. Data is important; Malm said the more historical crop and application data a grower has and can share with Grow West, the better his team can prepare for what that grower will need. And maintaining open, frequent communication will encourage accurate and streamlined product procurement and application decisions. The result: Effective crop management that helps growers achieve optimal yield.
“Have conversations with your PCA and plan things out as far in advance as possible to eliminate surprises,” Malm said. “Stay in constant contact with your PCA and have those conversations early and often.”
That kind of open communication will help Grow West not only meet customers’ crop protection needs, but secure long-term viability for both the company and growers it serves.
“While our outlook is tempered with the realism of the challenges we’re facing, we continue to be optimistic for 2022 if we can all work together,” Malm said. “We’ll continue to make significant investments when it comes to our people, facilities and product supply to make sure Grow West is here for the long term. It’s going to take a lot more than what’s happened in the last year to scare us away.”