Latin America is one of the leading players in the global agricultural market and accounts for approx. 10% of its agricultural product export. Furthermore, owning almost 30% of all unused farmable land in the world, Latin America is capable of solving the issue of global food shortage, according to the World Bank. However, in order to fulfil the region's potential, severe improvements must be made in the entire industry. Unfortunately, this is hardly achievable, largely due to insufficient performance and low profitability of the agriculture-related business. The drastically aging agricultural aircraft fleet is also at blame.
With the World population to top 9 billion by 2050, the demand for food will see a significant increase in the upcoming years. However, since the area of farmable land is not expanding along with the growing Earth population, learning how to raise the effectiveness of its use is amongst the most burning issues of the global community.
‘One of the ways to improve production is to use various crop protection products. According to IICA, Latin America has 42% of the global agriculture expansion potential. However, considering its rough geographical conditions and poorly developed road systems, aerial applications seems to be not only the most effective, but also probably the only way to increase the productivity of agricultural lands in the region,' commented Karla Grauzas, Business Development Manager for Latin America at Locatory.com.
Table 1. The number of aerial application-related companies in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay.
Currently Latin America operates one of the largest agricultural aircraft fleets. Its giant Brazil is, after all, the second largest (after the USA) fleet in the world with approx. 1500-1600 agricultural aircraft, according to the National Agency of Civil Aviation. Argentina also maintains a considerable amount of industry airplanes (about 1000), while other regional countries have from several to several hundred of agricultural aircraft.
Table 1. Agricultural aircraft fleets in different Latin American countries
However, the quantity of airplanes does not ensure effective performance of the aerial application-related services. Many of the Latin American agricultural aircraft are just too old to perform effectively.
‘In Argentina, for instance, a large part of the fleet of aerial spraying planes is failing because they were manufactured 30-40 years ago. However, ‘old’ is an improper term in aviation. If an aircraft and its components are maintained in strict accordance with the regulations, many of the aging aircraft should perform almost as well as the new ones,’ explained the CEO of Locatory.com Zilvinas Sadauskas.
Unfortunately, local agricultural aircraft operators are facing severe difficulties with the renewal of the fleet. Being in most cases simply unable to afford new aircraft (one costs from $100 000 to $1,400,000, according to the NAAA), local operators are forced to invest in aircraft repairs and overhauls. However, they mostly depend on the suppliers from the USA. Not only does this means sky-high prices of spare parts and components but also spells extended delivery times, especially to remote locations.
‘While commercial airlines may have to wait up to a week until a necessary part is delivered, receiving agricultural aircraft components takes way longer. The aftermath of such lengthy deliveries may be dramatic, since 2-3 days’ delay in the land application process may result in the loss of the entire harvest. It may be stated with 100% certainty, that it is almost impossible to find a third-party supplier for the agricultural aircraft in Latin America, though there are sure to be plenty of potential suppliers somewhere out there’, commented Karla Grauzas.
‘Some aerial service providers go out of business, some decide to change fleets – in both cases such operators are potential nearby suppliers. The only issue is how to list your surplus or no longer needed parts. The answer is easy – the Internet. Through the development of mobile networks in the region, the Internet is also spreading even to the most remote locations in Latin America. Access to mobile Internet is more than enough to share the information about your components with other industry players in the region. It safe, it is fast and it is 24/7 available,’ said the CEO of Locatory.com.