Wednesday, September 17, 2014

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Global Seed Industry Is Evolving Too

gv_marcel_bruins_sept2012There are several regions around the world the seed industry needs to be aware of in coming years as they grow and continue to offer new market opportunities. Obviously the BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—are countries where there has been good economic growth, which is leading to growth in the seed industry as well, and they will continue to grow. But there’s more going on.

In Africa there is good growth in countries such as Nigeria, Liberia, Egypt and Tanzania, but also some unexpected players such as Eritrea and Ethiopia.

In Central Asia we have to watch several of the so-called “STAN countries,” especially Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

In South America countries with the best growth are Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

And in Asia there’s good growth in Mongolia, Iraq and Papua New Guinea.

But good economic growth does not automatically mean a good growth of the seed sector. We hope, of course, that as soon as a country starts to generate a higher GDP that it will invest in agriculture, and more specifically the seed sector. But this takes a while before the enabling environment for the seed sector is set up and the International Seed Federation is helping countries with that through the World Seed Project. ISF is one of the founding fathers of this project which seeks to develop such an enabling regulatory environment in developing countries, and we’re making good progress there.

Breaking that growth down by sectors within the seed industry, obviously biotech will continue to grow. The expectations are 10 additional countries growing biotech crops on a commercial scale by 2015. In a similar manner, we will see a continued growth of the use of seed treatment or seed enhanced technologies. These are very important tools that we’re direly going to need in the fight against many of the global challenges that we’re facing.

We will also be seeing an increased focus on abiotic tolerance breeding; for example, drought, salt or flood tolerance. There were already breeding efforts, but under the influence of climate change we are seeing some very strong and promising public-private partnerships and this will only increase.

With the advent of the International Treaty and the Convention on Biological Diversity, plus its recently adopted Nagoya Protocol, I’m afraid that the administrative burden of access to germplasm and access to technologies will prove to be another challenge leading to more changes within the seed companies.

The conversion of self-pollinated and open pollinated crops into hybrid crops will continue. And as with other crops that have undergone this conversion before, this will most likely lead to specialized regions where hybrid production of those crops is most efficient.

The changes in the industry are faster than ever; technology is booming and the world is shrinking. As in other sectors we’ll see some more consolidation. On the other hand the larger companies don’t want to deal with too many different products so they are divesting some of the less profitable crops, which leads to very interesting growth possibilities for medium- and small-sized breeding companies.

We should not forget that in the seed sector the top 10 companies are responsible for 30–40 percent of the overall seed market. In other sectors such as pharmacy, IT or crop protection, the top 10 companies have up to 80–90 percent of the global market, so in that respect the seed sector is still quite fragmented.

With all of the fast changes and volatile markets, what we will see as survivors in the seed sector are companies that can anticipate, are adaptable and welcome change. The rapid advancement of technology and globalization also means that companies need to be willing to work together to continue growing. And at ISF we’ll help them with that.

Marcel Bruins, secretary general, ISF

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