Fire ant scare gives Japanese pesticide stocks a boost
Hype over killer bugs seen helping the companies that fight them
TOKYO -- Shares in insecticide producers racked up strong gains here Wednesday as the latest news reports spotlighted the growing threat of the deadly South American fire ant in Japan.
At least two queens of the venomous species were found in a container arriving at the Port of Kobe this May, the Ministry of the Environment said. This came just a day after Osaka saw the country's first confirmed case of a fire ant queen.
The discoveries have fueled concerns about the invasive pest. Osaka officials held an emergency meeting Wednesday to share information and discuss responses.
Originally from South America, red fire ants are believed to have made their way to Japan via cargo containers arriving from China. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism here has identified 63 ports where such containerships regularly dock and has told local governments hosting them to step up the fight through such measures as insecticides.
Equities investors have bought insecticide and pest control companies in anticipation of stronger demand.
Fumakilla surged 18% from the previous day's close to 1,208 yen at one point Wednesday -- its highest level in roughly three decades. Ant insecticide from the company is said to have been used in Kobe after Tuesday's discovery. Fumakilla finished 7.81% higher at 1,104 yen.
Asante climbed 5% to an intraday high of 2,070 yen, the loftiest level since its 2013 listing. The major termite services provider ended the day up 3.65% at 2,045 yen.
Earth Chemical, which offers a range of insecticides and other pest control products, rose 4.19% to finish at 5,970 yen.
Insecticide producers have taken advantage of the scare by stepping up dissemination of information on ant control.
Earth Chemical said its regular insecticides for ants should also work against fire ants. Shipments of ant insecticides and related offerings have run 50% above year-earlier levels since the start of the month, the company reports.
Fumakilla has posted fire ant information online, listing various cases and products to use. It recommends destroying colonies with its liquid ant insecticides.