Seed production is prevalent in nearly all index countries, with smallholders involved in half of the production locations. Room for improvement remains for companies in developing and monitoring compliance with labor standards in seed production activities.
This measurement area evaluates seed production activities in index countries, through which companies can increase the availability of quality seed while advancing the local seed sector and including smallholder farmers within their activities.
Companies report seed production locations in all index countries except Botswana and Lesotho. Kenya and Tanzania have the highest number of companies with seed production activities (eight each), followed by South Africa (seven) and Uganda and Zambia (six each). In Burundi, Namibia, Somalia and Eswatini, only one company reports on producing seed.
Seed Co produces seed in the highest number of countries (15) in the region, followed by Corteva Agriscience (seven) and Capstone Seeds (five). East African Seed currently produces seed in three countries and plans to increase this to five in 2019. Seven companies report seed production solely in the country in which they are headquartered. Expanding seed production activities to more index countries and involving smallholder farmers in these activities will contribute significantly to local seed sector and smallholder farmer development.
More than half of the index companies collaborate with local players on seed production. Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation collaborates with local unions, farmer cooperatives and individual smallholder farmers in seed multiplication programs. Similarly, FICA Seeds works with farmer groups to produce seed. Darusalam Seed Company collaborates with seed growers via a contract-farming agreement, and Equator Seeds has links with 51 cooperatives in which it involves 1,500-3,000 seed growers seasonally.
Seed Co, which has the highest number of seed production locations in the region, collaborates with cooperatives and seed growers. Victoria Seeds works with contract farmer associations to produce seed in two (Rwanda and Uganda) out of the three countries where it is present. Other companies, including Capstone Seeds, Demeter Seed, East African Seed, Klein Karoo Africa and Technisem, collaborate with cooperatives and local farmer groups on seed production, thereby contributing to local seed sector advancement.
While index companies report having seed production locations in all the index countries except Botswana and Lesotho, the involvement of smallholder farmers in seed production varies significantly. Out of the 17 index countries with seed production locations, smallholder farmers are involved in 12 of them. Companies producing seed in Angola, Burundi, Namibia, South Sudan and Eswatini do not report involving smallholder farmers. Corteva Agriscience produces seed in seven countries and involves smallholder farmers in all of them. Although Seed Co produces seed in 15 countries, the highest number in the index, it only reports involving smallholder farmers in three.
Six regional companies, namely Darusalam Seed Company, Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation, Equator Seeds, FICA Seeds, NASECO and Seed Co, together report involving almost 60,000 smallholder farmers in seed production in the 2015-17 reporting period, with Equator Seeds and Ethiopian Agricultural Business Corporation engaging the majority of these farmers. The varying extent to which companies formalize their relationship with smallholder farmers through employment contracts and risk and benefit-sharing is notable. FICA Seeds and Victoria Seeds demonstrate a greater level of accountability, as evidenced by their seed production contracts. Corteva Agriscience reports that it does not differentiate the contract conditions it offers to farmers based on their farm size. Developing and improving contracts that address the specific needs and requirements of smallholder farmers will ensure that risks and benefits are formalized and shared equitably.
Global companies Corteva Agriscience, Monsanto and Syngenta have detailed codes of conduct relating to labor standards, including child and forced labor, health and safety, living conditions and minimum wages. These companies also have monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with these standards, indicating a commitment to fair labor conditions. East-West Seed’s ‘7 Essentials’ code of conduct covers provisions on child labor, forced labor, and health and safety. The company reports that it has implemented minimum wages and advocates decent working conditions across its seed production facilities.
Regionally based companies demonstrate a general lack of compliance with and monitoring of labor standards in seed production. Capstone Seeds, Demeter Seed and East African Seed are reportedly developing corporate labor standards and indicate that they comply with Malawi’s and Kenya’s labor laws. However, it is unclear whether these labor laws are also applicable to actors in companies’ supply chains, including seed growers. Technisem and NASECO have positions on child labor and minimum wages, and NASECO also reports having a position on forced labor. FICA Seeds’ code of conduct includes provisions on health and safety. However, none of these companies indicate how they monitor compliance. Although these examples show a certain acknowledgement of the importance of setting standards, developing and monitoring labor and social standards in seed production is a major area for improvement for regional companies.
With seed production locations in 15 index countries, Seed Co demonstrates a notable investment in the development of the regional seed sector. The company engages with local players in its seed production activities and provides funding for inputs and equipment as well as farmer contracts that have arrangements on product prices.
Corteva Agriscience has seed production locations in seven index countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – and involves smallholder farmers in its seed production activities in all these locations.
FICA Seeds earns recognition for its contribution to the Ugandan seed sector through the Increased Production of Foundation Seed for Maize and Upland Rice project, funded by AGRA, an African agriculture alliance. To meet the challenge of inadequate access to early generation seed, the company has developed a business model to produce and supply foundation seed to other seed companies in the country.
Victoria Seeds has seed production locations in Rwanda and Uganda and reports involving smallholder farmers in an average of 85% of its seed production activities. In its contracts, the company indicates that it accepts the risk of seed and crop failure as a result of natural disasters and states that in those cases it does not request repayment from growers. These contracts, which include arrangements on product prices and the sharing of benefits and risks, are leading in this measurement area.