But although the figures reflect a slight decline in profitabilty from the previous year, the company reiterated its target of double digit growth in earnings per share for the full year 2006.
In Crop Protection, sales were 1 per cent higher (CER). In Europe, Africa & Middle East a late start to the season was offset by a recovery in southern Europe, notably Spain, continued growth in Eastern Europe and a good performance in Germany.
In NAFTA, growth was achieved across the region with new products again driving performance, notably the new cereal herbicide Axial, which made a strong start in its first season.
Higher sales in Asia Pacific were led by China, as well as a number of countries in South East Asia. Sales in LATAM were somewhat lower due to challenging market conditions in Brazil.
Growth was achieved across all product lines with the exception of lower sales in fungicides, notably in Brazil. Professional Products again delivered solid growth with all three businesses Seed Care, Lawn & Garden and Home Care - making significant contributions.
Seeds sales were 5 per cent lower (CER). In comparison with a strong first quarter in 2005, corn and soybean sales were lower primarily due to production-related issues affecting corn in the USA. Diverse Field Crops again delivered good growth. Sales of Vegetables & Flowers were also higher, maintaining their growth record.
The modest first quarter results also reflect Syngenta's strong performance last year. The firm recorded a 9 per cent sales increase for 2005, suggesting that the Swiss biotech giant could be well placed to benefit from a more relaxed regulatory environment towards genetic modification (GM) in the Europe.
"In 2005, Syngenta delivered another year of growth across the business," said chief executive Michael Pragnell.
Seeds sales rose by 42 per cent, up nine per cent excluding acquisitions. Crop protection sales in Europe also improved in the fourth quarter.
"Looking ahead, the strength of the business and our exciting pipeline products enable us to plan additional expenditure in marketing and product development and, for the three years through 2008, target double digit growth in earnings per share."
Syngenta is the third largest player in the high-value commercial seeds market. Sales in 2005 were approximately $8.1 billion, and the firm employs more than 19,000 people in over 90 countries.