Thanks to the strong economic recovery, sales by companies in the region were sharply higher than the 2009 level, increasing by 31% to €3,829 million. In local currency terms, sales were 19% higher than 2009.
In South America, our sales rose in all segments. In the Agricultural Solutions segment, demand for our innovative crop protection products increased in all indications. Sales volumes in our business with architectural coatings also improved considerably.
In Africa and the Middle East, sales increased in all segments and nearly all divisions. Only the Petrochemicals division experienced a slight decline in sales.
Compared with 2009, income from operations declined by €104 million to €177 million. This was due to one-time expenses for valuation adjustments on receivables related to long-term supply agreements.
In February 2010, we started construction of a sodium methylate plant in Guaratinguetá, Brazil, the largest BASF site in South America. The plant, which will have an annual capacity of 60,000 metric tons, will primarily serve the regional market. Sodium methylate is a key chemical for the efficient production of biodiesel, an increasingly important alternative to diesel fuels.
Furthermore, we will also be putting a special focus on our business with solutions for the construction sector in Brazil. We expect the industry to pick up sharply as a result of infrastructure investments in advance of major sporting events such as the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 as well as government growth programs.
New strategies are helping us to take advantage of opportunities in the Africa and Middle East regions, thus tapping further business potential.