East-West Seed leads seed industry on increasing smallholder farmer productivity in South and Southeast Asia

November 12, 2018 - 04:01
East-West Seed leads seed industry on increasing smallholder farmer productivity in South and Southeast Asia

First ever Access to Seeds Index for South and Southeast Asia evaluated24 leading seed companies in the region on support for Sustainable DevelopmentGoals


MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Media OutReach - 12 November 2018 - Thailand-based East-West Seed outperformed globalgiants Bayer and Syngenta in the first-ever Access to Seeds Index for South andSoutheast Asia, which evaluated the efforts of 24 leading seed companies in theregion to support growth in the productivity of smallholder farmers, one of themain targets of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


In South and Southeast Asia about 350 million people are undernourished, a number that has barely changed in the past two years, according to a recent United Nations report.[1]. Around 30% of the children in the region aremalnourished. Smallholders provide up to 80% of the food supply, so helping the170 million smallholder farmers of South and Southeast Asia to grow more andmore nutritious food is key to achieving food and nutrition security.


The Access to Seeds Indexfound that leading seed companies have seed sales activities in all countriesin South and Southeast Asia. However, investments in seed production or breeding tend to be concentrated in a select numberof countries, most notably India and Thailand. As a result, the development oflocal seed industries in Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos andCambodia run the risk of lagging further behind as few leading seed companiesinvest in these countries. Ultimately, 80% of smallholder farmers in South andSoutheast Asia have yet to be reached.


"Increasing yields,tackling climate change challenges and reducing the environmental impact ofagriculture, it all starts with the seed farmers use," says Ido Verhagen,executive director of the Access to Seeds Index. "The seed industry plays a keyrole in improving the accessibility and affordability of quality seeds forsmallholder farmers."


East-West Seed leads the industry with a business model builtaround smallholders, including breeding for their specific needs, selling seedsin small packages and providing training. Its client base is made up almostentirely of smallholders (98%), indicating that successful business models thatwork for both small-scale farmers and a company itself are possible. The top 10of the index further includes three seed companies from India and six globalseed companies from outside the region.


The five highestscoring companies are all globally active. Besides East-West Seed (#1), Advanta(#4) has its roots in the region. The others, Bayer (#2), Syngenta(#3) and Corteva Agriscience[2] (#5), have all hadbreeding, production and distribution activities in the region for a long time.Bayer's clientele in the region comprises about 95% smallholder farmers.


"The picture thatemerges from our data is that of a highly competitive, research-driven seedindustry. Companies from the region itself play an important role, especiallyon research and development, with breeding programs specifically focusing onthe needs of smallholders," Verhagen adds. "Global companies like Bayer and Syngenta placed high in our ranking, indicating that they havebecome well-rooted in the region."

The Access to Seeds Index research notes that the companiesstrictly adhere to national laws and/or international treaties concerninggenetic resources but could do more to support the conservation and use of agrobiodiversityin the region.


On intellectual property, half of the companies explicitly state that theydo not limit the use of their varieties for further breeding or the use offarm-saved seeds. The research adds that few companies have tailored pricingstrategies for their patent-protected material in order to ensure affordabilityfor smallholder farmers.


The Access to Seeds Index for South andSoutheast Asia is one of the first SDG benchmarks published by the WorldBenchmarking Alliance. The initiative was launched last September during the UNGeneral Assembly in New York. By measuring and comparing corporate performanceon the SDGs it aims to encourage the private sector to step up their effortstowards achieving the SDGs. The Access to Seeds Index was developed withsupport of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Government of The Netherlands.

Note for editors

[2] New name of agriculture branch of mergedDuPontPioneer and Dow AgroScience