Local seed production activities are mainly found in South and Southeast Asia, while they are almost totally lacking in Western and Central Africa. In Asia, smallholder farmers are often involved in seed production. Despite strong commitments to tackling it, child labor remains a concern for the industry.
This measurement area evaluates local seed production activities in index countries, through which companies can address the limited availability of quality seed while advancing the local seed sector.
Global seed companies have extensive seed production activities in South and Southeast Asia. The region has almost twice as many seed production locations (46) as Eastern and Southern Africa (25). All companies, except KWS, report having seed production activities in South and Southeast Asia, and eight companies have seed production activities in Eastern and Southern Africa. In Latin America, nine companies have 13 seed production locations. Only Monsanto reports having seed production activities in Western and Central Africa.
In South and Southeast Asia, seed production takes place in 25 locations in ten index countries. None of the companies produce seed in Afghanistan, Laos or Cambodia. Seed production is concentrated in India and Thailand, which together constitute nearly half of the seed production locations (11 each) in the region, followed by Indonesia (seven) and the Philippines and Vietnam (five each).
In Eastern and Southern Africa, seed production takes place in seven index countries. Corteva Agriscience alone has seven seed production locations. South Africa appears to be the hotspot for seed production. Eight companies, including East-West Seed, Limagrain and Rijk Zwaan, report having seed production activities here. South Africa is followed by Tanzania, with five seed production locations, and Kenya with four.
In Latin America, seed production takes place in five index countries. Peru dominates, with five companies carrying out seed production in the country, followed by Paraguay and Guatemala, with three companies each. Western and Central Africa is largely neglected. Only Monsanto reports having seed production activities in Burkina Faso.
Multiple companies, notably Syngenta, Monsanto, Corteva Agriscience and KWS, have detailed codes of conduct regarding labor standards, including child and forced labor, health, safety and living conditions/minimum wages. These companies also have monitoring mechanisms to ensure compliance with these standards, indicating a commitment to fair labor conditions. East-West Seed, Bayer and Monsanto have, respectively, a Social Compliance Program, a Child Care Program and a Zero Child Labor policy to ensure adherence to and implementation of their codes of conduct. While half of the companies have commitments regarding minimum wages and/or working conditions, data was not available to understand company positions on labor standards or these positions are under development.
Despite stronger commitments by the majority of companies, child labor remains an issue for the entire industry. This was highlighted in a 2017 report published by the Council on Ethics for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), which raised its concerns about the use of child labor in the agriculture industry in India, including by partners of Advanta. In response to these findings, Advanta says it is taking steps to improve compliance by its partners such as growers, farmers and organizers or middlemen, and that it is working toward the reduction or eradication of child labor in the industry.
Although Advanta shows to have taken measures, and while a majority of global seed companies have improved their commitments to eradicate child labor, the issue remains an area for attention for the entire seed industry.
Syngenta sets an example with its ‘Look after every worker’ commitment. The commitment, which is part of the company’s Good Growth Plan, is regularly monitored for progress. As of 2017, the company’s Fair Labor Program, which is committed to fair labor conditions throughout the company’s supply chain, covered 86% of its seed farms, compared to 82% in 2016. The program covers index countries including Paraguay, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia.
Several companies do not appear to have detailed codes of conduct but do publish clear commitments to tackling child labor in their supply chains. Rijk Zwaan and Bejo have a zero-tolerance policy toward child labor on their website. Ten companies – including Rijk Zwaan and Bejo – report taking strict measures to prohibit child labor in seed production.
Almost all global seed companies have stringent quality management protocols to ensure seed quality. Most quality management standards used are aligned with the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) or equivalent third-party organizations. Some companies also have internally developed quality management systems (QMS) to cover the seed production in all end-to-end operations.
Advanta applies ISO 9000 to all its seed production activities. The ISO 9000 group of standards includes international quality standards and addresses various aspects of quality management. Adherence to the ISO standards ensures quality is consistently improved. East-West Seed has both internally developed and externally certified QMS.
The company indicates that all its main seed production locations are ISO 9001 certified, and the locations without ISO certification undergo rigorous field inspections to ensure compliance with company standards. Bayer maintains an Agricultural Safety Manual for optimizing seed production procedures and has set a target of covering 100% of company seed production with a QMS. Bejo follows the International Seed Health Initiative for Vegetables Crops (ISHI-Veg) standards for maintaining the quality of its seed, while Corteva Agriscience has a self-certification system (Integrated Operations Management System) which is based on the ISO 9002 standard.
Smallholder farmers are actively involved in seed production in South and Southeast Asia, but limited information is available about smallholder involvement in other index regions. Together, Corteva Agriscience, Advanta, Syngenta, Bayer and East-West Seed report involving over 150,000 smallholder farmers in their seed production activities.
In Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand, Advanta involves smallholder farmers in an average of 95% of its seed production activities.
However, it does not appear to involve any smallholders in its seed production activities in Bolivia. Bayer involves smallholder farmers in 98% of its seed production activities in Bangladesh, India, the Philippines and Thailand but not in Paraguay and Peru. Smallholder farmers produce 100% of East-West Seed’s seed in Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Tanzania.
The company does not report on the involvement of smallholder farmers in its seed production activities in South Africa and Guatemala.
Corteva Agriscience involves smallholder farmers in seed production activities in all its locations. Smallholders produce 100% of the company’s seed in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. Rijk Zwaan involves smallholder farmers in its seed production activities in India and Thailand but not in Tanzania, South Africa and Peru. No information was found or provided regarding the extent of smallholder farmer involvement in seed production for Bejo, KWS and Syngenta.
Expanding company seed production activities in index countries and involving smallholder farmers in these activities will contribute significantly to local incomes and smallholder farmer capacity development.
In each measurement areas activities or approaches are identified that stand out or can be considered innovative in the industry. They contribute to the score of a company through leadership indicators.
Syngenta is committed to fair labor conditions throughout its supply chain. Part of this commitment involves establishing seed production farms in all high-risk countries. Regular audits ensure that company labor standards are met. The company has also set clear targets for this commitment and reports on progress toward these targets.