The 2019 Access to Seeds Index for Global Seed Companies is made up of 13 leading global companies in field crop and vegetable seeds as well as regional leaders with a global presence. The insights below are based on publicly available information and information disclosed by the companies on engagement.
Improving access to seeds for smallholder farmers starts with the presence of seed companies in the countries where smallholders are active. With the exception of three countries in sub-Saharan Africa (Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Somalia), global seed companies are present in all countries covered by the Access to Seeds Index. The growing number of companies in Western and Central Africa is notable. In 2016, the country with the highest number of companies was Ghana, with seven. That is now 10.
Six countries had no company presence at all. That is now two. In four countries (Central African Republic, Chad, Guinea and Mauritania), only one company reports being active. In most countries in Latin America and South and Southeast Asia, more than half of the global seed companies have a presence. Together, the global seed companies report having reached 47 million smallholder farmers in 2017 with their sales activities. This is approximately 10% of the world’s 500 million small farms.
Global seed companies can support the adoption of new technologies by providing extension services or training to farmers. Providing extension services is generally seen as the responsibility of the public sector. Increasingly, however, seed companies regard it as their responsibility to provide training, or as an opportunity to retain existing customers or build a future client base. Bayer and Corteva Agriscience have the widest coverage, with both having technical extension staff on the ground in 11 countries.
In South and Southeast Asia, more than half of the global seed companies report that they provide extension services alongside their sales activities.
At country level, however, it becomes clear that most of these activities are highly concentrated, notably in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.
Less than half of the global seed companies are involved in extension services in sub-Saharan Africa. In Latin America, farmer training appears to be limited, despite the high presence of global seed companies. In these regions too, activities are concentrated in a small number of countries. Together, the global seed companies report having reached 17 million smallholders through extension services and training worldwide.
Global seed companies can advance the development of local seed sectors by investing in seed business activities such as breeding, production and processing. From a business perspective, it can be logical to concentrate these investments in a small number of countries. Other factors, such as climatic context, the enabling environment, such as regulation and infrastructure, or the availability of local skilled staff, influence where companies choose to invest.
At the industry level, it is clear that global seed companies invest most in South and Southeast Asia. In Western and Central Africa, these kinds of investments are generally lacking. Only East-West Seed and Syngenta report having breeding activities in this region. Monsanto reports having production activities in Burkina Faso.
Ten countries benefit most from investments in local seed business activities: two countries in Latin America, three in Eastern and Southern Africa and five in South and Southeast Asia. In each of these countries, at least three companies invest in one of the three business activities of breeding, production and/or processing.
Of all the companies, Monsanto and Corteva Agriscience have production activities in the most countries: 12 and 11 respectively. Monsanto also has breeding activities in the most countries (nine), followed by Limagrain (eight). Corteva Agriscience has processing activities in nine countries.