South Africa

Last updated: March 2019
  • Region Eastern and Southern Africa
  • UPOV membership status UPOV Member
  • Participation in OECD Seed Schemes Yes
  • ISTA accredited member laboratories Yes
  • GM Crop Approval for cultivation Cotton, Maize, Soybean
  • Law on Plant Variety Protection Plant Breeders’ Rights Act, 1976 (Act 15 of 1976)
Seed sector in South Africa

South Africa’s agriculture sector is comprised of well-developed commercial farmers and small-scale farmers. Its seed industry is regulated under the 1976 Plant Improvement Act to ensure orderly trade in seeds. The act provides registration for premises from which the sale, cleaning and packing of seed may be undertaken, and it also prescribes the conditions subject to which seeds can be sold. It has since been updated by the 2015 Plant Improvement Draft Bill (8B).

The South African National Seed Organisation (SANSOR) administers seed certification schemes on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Since 1990 political transformation in South Africa has resulted in the deregulation of agricultural marketing.

The seed industry has evolved over more than a century into a relatively mature sector with 107 seed companies that are members of SANSOR. The industry has evolved to meet the needs of large-scale commercial farming, which has taken precedence over smallholder activities. Access to improved seeds is still a challenge in some areas in the country. As a sign of industry maturity, there is significant specialization by seed crop, with international companies interested in major food crops.


There are 21 index companies operating in South Africa, 11 of which have seed production locations. However, only Corteva Agriscience involves smallholder farmers in seed production activities.

Ten companies have breeding locations in the country, and six focus on breeding for field crops. Klein Karoo Africa breeds both vegetables and field crops, while Hygrotech has a breeding program for vegetable crops.

Eleven companies have testing locations and four companies have processing locations in the country. Three companies carry out extension services in the country—Corteva Agriscience alone employs 40 technical staff for these activities.

Index company activities identified in South Africa
Company Crops in portfolio Company activities in country
Companies selected for
the Access to Seeds Index
Vegetables Breeding
Sales Extension
Capstone Seeds  **
Corteva Agriscience  *
East-West Seed
Enza Zaden
Hygrotech  **
Klein Karoo Africa  **
Known You Seed
Nongwoo Bio
Pop Vriend Seeds
Rijk Zwaan
Starke Ayres  **
Seed Co  **
  • * Company involves smallholder farmers in seed production activities
  • ** Company headquartered in South Africa

Other index companies are also active in the country. However, country-specific information for these companies is not available or was provided under non-disclosure.