September 2, 2015
BASF: Leading the global fight against aflatoxins
The German chemical giant is taking on aflatoxins with its premium Novasil™ Plus - and targeting ambitious growth in Asia over the next five years.
By Terry TAN
Aflatoxins, naturally-formed mycotoxins that are produced by the Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus fungi, are a rising threat against crops around the world, even in regions where such contaminations usually had lower probabilities of occurrences.
According to Stephen Crisp, the vice-director of BASF's Animal Nutrition division for Asia Pacific, the current hotspots are Middle and Latin America, parts of the African continent and most Asian countries. "There is a moderate occurrence in Australia as well," Crisp noted. Global climate change, he posited, may have been the catalyst for the growing aflatoxin problem seen today.
Because of their high toxicity and carcinogenicity, aflatoxins severely compromise livestock health and animal-derived food product safety, and affect all types of grain.
"We recognise the need to safeguard feed value, especially in regions with less favourable weather conditions," Crisp said. "In addition, considering the increasing demand for animal protein, providing safe animal feed is crucial. Protecting animals from mycotoxins is a very important contribution to animal health, to a more sustainable use of resources and to animal-based food safety."
Hence, BASF's Novasil™ Plus feed additive was developed to effectively curtail the harmful effects of aflatoxins, and have -- since its introduction to the feed market many years ago - received approvals from the EU and several other countries. Its popularity was further cemented by Professor Timothy Phillips from the Texas A&M University, who conducted research trials on Novasil™ Plus and called the product the "platinum standard of aflatoxin binders".
"As a mineral product, Novasil™ Plus is absolutely stable during feed processing and passes through the digestive tract of the animal together with the bound toxins virtually untouched," Crisp explained.
Bartholomaeus Stiburski, the global product manager of BASF Animal Nutrition, highlighted the reliability of Novasil™ Plus which work regardless of the pH value in the digestive tracts of animals.
"It does not bind valuable nutrients, thus preserving the nutritional value of feed," Stiburski said. "Our product is extremely pure and heat-stable. The dose rate is 1 to 5 kg per tonne of feed and is dependent on the animal species and the aflatoxin content in raw materials such as grains or maize."
With Novasil™ Plus's proven capabilities coupled with strong demand, BASF found the impetus to focus on the mycotoxin binder market. The feed additive was made a product of BASF Animal Nutrition following the acquisition of Engelhard by the German corporation, currently the world's biggest chemical producer.
"Novasil™ Plus is still a relatively new product within our BASF Animal Nutrition product portfolio," Stiburski stated. "Market growth for mycotoxin binding products is strongly dependent on the global occurrence of mycotoxins, which varies from year to year."
He added that with increased awareness over the years, more customers in the feed industry are willing to develop strategies and initiate actions against mycotoxin contamination. In addition, BASF is assisting the feed industry in such exercises by providing its expertise on mycotoxin management targeting different types of grain.
"We make use of our strong expertise and long-term experience with regard to mycotoxin binding. Our customers know that the higher the purity of the calcium bentonite, the better the product can bind aflatoxins," Stiburski said.
This could bode well in marketing Novasil™ Plus as a premium solution that is safe and reasonably priced.
"The biggest concern is to purchase a product that is highly effective against aflatoxins and that shows proven results on binding efficacy in every animal species. The goal is to achieve the best possible cost-performance ratio," Crisp said.
Therefore, it is important that Novasil™ Plus, along with other BASF Animal Nutrition products, fulfills a crucial role in helping the global feed and livestock industry which have been beleaguered by poor performances and low feed grain prices. Stiburski attributed the cause of the problems mainly to disease-related issues.
"We believe that helping our customers in choosing the right product to support animal performance and health will in turn improve profit margins," he said.
Reflecting the strong faith of BASF in its products, Crisp believes that Novasil™ Plus will be able to benefit the feed milling sector in the production of safer feeds.
Further growth in Asia
BASF expects further business growth in Asia - its major market - for the next five years. The region's climatic and environmental conditions have rendered it more conducible for the emergence of moulds and aflatoxins, according to Stephen Crisp.
However, as Bartholomaeus Stiburski pointed out, extreme weather and undesirable conditions during harvest can happen anywhere in the world, and at any point of time. Hence, despite the differences in market situations between western nations, and countries in both Southeast Asia and South America, BASF does not simply determine its business development based on growth in different markets.
"The market demand is strongly dependent on the occurrence of mycotoxins, contamination levels and the quality of the raw materials," Stiburski emphasised.
In China, where BASF has operated for an impressive 130 years, the company's Novasilect® AF feed additive (marketed under the Novasil™ brand) has only just been launched, Crisp said. The mainland is currently the largest producer of feed, poultry, pig and aquaculture in the world.
"We have high expectations for Novasilect® AF to lead the market," Crisp remarked.
BASF is also able to respond to its Chinese customers in a more efficient manner, thanks to a strong sales team and a well-established network in China. "In addition to these networks, we are able to call on our experienced regional and global technical teams to cover all our customers' needs," Crisp said.
Such optimism might serve BASF well as the 150-year-old German corporation continues to engage the world's most populous nation, as well as its regulatory body, known to be one of the strictest authorities of its kind in Asia. While, from time to time, BASF also has to contend with local intellectual property issues, the company deals such matters amicably and will only resort to legal actions if the situation warrants for it.
As a well-respected player in the market, BASF abides to all requirements in countries in which it operates, Crisp added.