Seed World

Keeping Europe’s Seed Sector Competitive

CEO, Seeds Division,

Philippe Saux was appointed in 2014 as Chief Executive Officer of the Seeds Division of the EURALIS Group. With engineer training in agronomy, he has spent most of his professional career in the Seeds Division of the EURALIS Group. He has successively held various responsibilities, mainly Director of Sunflower Breeding Program, General Manager of the Spain subsidiary and Chief Financial Officer of the Seeds Division. As CEO of the Seeds Division, Philippe Saux is a member of the Executive Committee EURALIS Group.

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One of the main issues at the moment for the European seed sector is the possibility to uphold a competitive and independent European seed sector in the context of the uncertainty over the rights to use the New Breeding Techniques (gene editing and others) in our R&D activities dedicated to European markets. It is for us as a company a huge challenge to stay in the race with big companies who can use the techniques in their non-EU countries. Another main issue is our capacity of the genetics to face the increasing demand for a more “green” agriculture in Europe, including organic farming.

As any company we wish to grow, but for that to happen, Europe needs to become more competitive to the rest of the world. This means that first, we need to have access to all the available technologies i.e. fair rules to compete in a globalized world. In addition, we need the political courage to support the principle of innovation.

There are various aspects to consider when looking at growth markets. On the quantitative side we have of course the Eastern European countries which are currently major the drivers because firstly the acreage of the main crops is not fixed yet and secondly farmers have strong demands for innovation and technology. E.g. in Russia, sunflower or soybean can get new hectares in regions where these crops are not fully cultivated today. We also see that the market share of “western genetics” is increasing year after year. It has reached around 85% of the total sunflower seed market in Ukraine. On the qualitative side, we see a growth of the demand of sustainable genetic solutions for “organic” agriculture.

But it’s not all roses and sunshine, and in terms of the seed sector, a few things are keeping me up at night. One thing that is often on my mind is value sharing and I wonder which business model to implement to capture the resources that are needed to keep our R&D investment. Another item is the critical size, in other words, is my company big enough to survive in this highly competitive market, with all the mergers and acquisitions.

If I had all the world leaders in one room, I would encourage them to join the next general assembly of the Euralis’ members and check how the farmers are motivated to progress in their task of feeding safely their fellow citizens. Agriculture is not a classic industry, it is at the same time the first link in the food chain and the solution to meet today’s and tomorrow food challenges. That is why, agriculture needs to be accompanied by sustainable rules and access to innovation. In front of health, environment and climate challenges, I claim innovation first!