Bayer barters to grease wheels of trade in Brazil

SAO PAULO, April 2 (Reuters) - Germany's Bayer AG BAYG.DE is accepting coffee, sugar and grains as payment for its agrochemicals and inputs as a way to stave off a slowdown in sales as farmers struggle to obtain bank loans to raise cash.

“It’s a good way (of doing business), especially in these times of volatility and uncertainty,” said Marc Reichardt, head of Bayer CropScience in Latin America.

Bartering is already a common practice for farmers during the planting season, easing the burden of the many investments they have to make at that time, but it is usually done only with trading houses dealing in the product the farmer grows.

Trading houses which use this system provide farmers with inputs like fertilizer, and farmers repay with physical product later in the season.

Brazilian farmers, particularly those who have some existing debts, have reported problems in accessing credit for planting.

Bayer will offer bartering to soy, corn, cotton and coffee farmers. It will then export the product it receives through a trading house, Reichardt said during a press conference about the company’s 2008 earnings.

Bayer started to swap produce for agrochemicals two years ago and is beginning to expand the practice. It expects an increase in the share of sales done through barter, which reached 10 percent in 2008. Barter sales could double or treble this year.

“This helps farmers to place their produce in the market and to get finance. We just started offering this instrument and are reinforcing it in some areas of the country,” he said. “The feedback has been very good.”

Bayer CropScience’s Brazil sales reached 1.8 billion reais ($800 million) in 2008, up 37 percent from 2007.

“2008 was a recovery year for Brazilian agriculture, despite the crisis at the end of the year,” Reichardt said, adding Bayer’s sales of agrochemicals in Brazil had surpassed those in the U.S. market. ($1= 2.231 reais) (Editing by Peter Murphy; editing by Jim Marshall)