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The Seed Sector’s in for a Flat Year, Says Nomman Ahmed

Shawn Brook and Nomman Ahmed at the World Seed Congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

At the ISF World Seed Congress, Kynetec’s executive director talks about the bullish and bearish outlooks to the seed sector.

Is it possible to know exactly what will happen six months from now? Of course not — so many things are prone to change. While a business can’t exactly prepare for the future, they can arm themselves with all the best possible information to help make informed decisions when challenges and opportunities arise.

“It’s all about bullish or bearish and it’s been a very difficult year,” said Nommen Ahmed, executive director of global trend research and analytics at Kynetec during the Channel World Seed coverage of the International Seed Federation’s (ISF) World Seed Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. “Nothing from economic theory was folding through. Theorems were failing, prices going up and volume still skyrocketing. It was all about availability.”

Ahmed said what Kynetec tries to do is look at challenges and economics from a data perspective to try and quantify facts. That way, businesses can analyze the challenges they’re faced with and make informed decisions based on those challenges.

In terms of the challenges creating a bearish outlook for the year, climate change impacts, GM and biofortified seed demand, digital agriculture and precision farming adoption are the top three difficulties the seed sector faces. Though, it’s important to remember these challenges will vary from country to country — while some areas might be quick on addressing the challenges, others might be slow to face it.

“When we’re trying to feed a population, which is going to be close to 10 billion and we have an immediate need for solutions, you need to look at the regulatory landscape where you might not have global harmonization in place,” he says. “There’s a lot of precaution in the regulatory process, and it leads to an absence of a scientific or science-based discourse.”

Without this harmonization, there’s a lot of minor issues that pop up in the regulatory space as well. Ahmed sees discussions on intellectual property rights disputes, environmental concerns, access to more diverse gene pools, etc.

Most of these discussions are being driven more by socio-political factors than science-based discourse based on advocacy groups.

“We need short-term solutions to very big challenges that we’re seeing in the world right now,” he said. “We do have solutions, but do we make them accessible in the regions where they’re required most?”

This seems to be where particularly environmental concerns build on the uncertainty in the regulatory side.

On the bullish side of things, there’s some positive news: the seed sector is moving in the right direction to tackle quite a few of these challenges to our society.

“When I was walking around yesterday, there was a lot being talked about in terms of soil health, plant and seed health, seed treatments and biological seed treatments being made available to a wider grower base,” Ahmed said.

The biggest question he still sees though is how much of these products are commercial and how much can be made available to growers that aren’t commercially focused only.

In addition, taking tools away from growers is only going to add to both the stress and challenges faced in the field.

“As a grower, you’re asked to provide high-quality food and grow on less resources, while facing all this regulatory scrutiny on top of it,” he says. “Add on the demographic change and the difficulty of finding successors? It leads farmers to almost quit farming just because of the mental stress.”

At the end of the day, even with all the added stress of solving major problems to food security, Ahmed says the seed sector is poised for a flatter year.

“If you do the math, it’s probably not going to be a shrinking market, but a flattish market more or less this year,” he says. “[The seed industry] is way more resilient.”

Make sure to watch the full conversation on Channel World Seed at: https://youtu.be/McY40gi04QA

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