Syngenta AG (Syngenta) is a Swiss-based agro-chemical company founded in 2000 following the merger of Novartis Agribusiness and Zeneca Agrochemicals. In October 2017, ChemChina secured a $45 billion takeover after its participation in Syngenta exceeded 98% of Syngenta’s share capital. Syngenta offers a wide range of field crops, vegetable and flower seeds, and agrochemicals. Products are sold through independent distributors and dealers as well as directly to farmers. The company’s affiliated non-profit organization, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, focuses specifically on pre-commercial farmers and has projects in several South and Southeast Asian countries.

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South and Southeast Asia

Summary of results:

Syngenta ranks third in the South and Southeast Asia Index. It scores well on Commitment in all areas, particularly in Governance & Strategy where its global Good Growth Plan is a leading example of a corporate-led sustainability strategy. The company maintains favorable positions for smallholder farmers in both Genetic Resources and Intellectual Property, and it scores well for its extensive Seed Production activities. The company has ample Marketing & Sales activities, though there is room for improvement in reporting on the availability of crops and varieties across the region, and it has wide-ranging Capacity Building activities in several countries. The company performs weakest in Research & Development, where its approach is general and it specifies few breeding program activities relevant for smallholder farmers in South and Southeast Asia.

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Operations in Scope
  • Countries in Scope
  • Company Presence
  • Production Locations
  • Breeding Station/R&D
Index Crops in Portfolio
Field crops
Beans, dry
Pigeon pea
Rice, paddy
Green bean
Green pea
Pepper (hot)
Pepper (sweet)
Leading Practices

    The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are central to Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan, which forms the basis of the company’s sustainability strategy. The plan contributes generally to SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG 17 (Partnerships for the Goals) and has a key goal to reach 20 million smallholders and enable them to increase their productivity 50% by 2020. Syngenta demonstrates transparency by reporting a 2.7 million drop in the number of smallholders reached through sales in 2017, primarily because of a sharp decline in corn acreage in China.

    The Syngenta Foundation supported a Bioversity International project on millets in India called Payments for Agrobiodiversity Conservation Services, which was intended to create economic opportunities for smallholders to help conserve crop biodiversity.

    Syngenta’s e-licensing system TraitAbility gives breeders, companies and public research institutes access to many of their plant-related innovations. It is free to use for research, breeding and development purposes.

    One of the six commitments of the company’s Good Growth Plan is to ‘Look after every worker’. The company has worked with the Fair Labor Association (FLA) since 2004 and launched its ongoing Me and Mine program in 2006 to address working conditions on its seed production farms. In 2015, Syngenta became the first agricultural company to receive FLA accreditation for its work in India.

    Syngenta’s Farm Family Training on Stewardship program arranges meetings for farmers, their wives and children, focusing on agricultural solutions alongside an attempt to break down traditional barriers to entry. By 2017, the program had reached approximately 27,000 Bangladeshi participants across 600 separate activities.

Areas for Improvement

    Syngenta’s breeding scope in South and Southeast Asia is unclear. Outside of the Affordable, Accessible Asian (AAA) Drought Tolerant Maize Project, it provides no specifics for breeding in other field or vegetable varieties.

    The company is encouraged to disclose further information on its portfolio availability and activities (breeding, production and testing) in South and Southeast Asia.

Notable Findings

    The Syngenta Foundation’s Seeds2B program focuses explicitly on improving access to seeds for smallholder farmers. Although it is Africa-centric, it does demonstrate activities in Indonesia.

    The Syngenta Foundation has two programs to help create an enabling environment in South and Southeast Asia. Its Connect program identifies and assesses the performance of new varieties and de-risks entry for distribution, while its Build program facilitates the licensing of public-bred varieties for private companies and develops the market for smallholder farmers.

    Syngenta co-created the Growing Together Program with the NGO Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) in Bangladesh. Six for-profit farmer centers give smallholder farmers access to agricultural inputs, such as seeds, crop protection products and simple farming equipment. The company also offers an e-hub platform that provides digital support.

    Syngenta and the Syngenta Foundation provide regulatory and stewardship sup­port to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for the Golden Rice initiative, despite stating that it has no commercial interest in the project.

    The Syngenta Foundation partners with USAID Feed the Future Innovation Labs to trial tropically adapted varieties of soybean in Indonesia.

    The Syngenta Foundation collaborates with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the AAA Drought Tolerant Maize Project for the specific purpose of providing varieties to resource-poor smallholder farmers in marginal environments across three drought-prone Indian states.

    The company contributes to building a network of banks, insurers, retailers, traders and NGOs in Indonesia, providing smallholder farmers with products, protocols and training, while its partners add financial literacy training, micro-loans, crop insurance, buyback guarantees and market access initiatives.

    Syngenta’s Project Nirmiti in Odisha, India uses a network of local residents to make agricultural knowledge and inputs available to rice-growing farmers. The company engages enterprising smallholders to serve as ‘Krishi Tantra Sevaks’ (‘Farm Technology Service Providers’) and build networks through local interactions and existing relationships.

    The Syngenta Foundation was a driving force behind the Farmforce mobile app, which was independently rolled out in 2017 and is available in Thai, Hindi and Vietnamese. The app tracks all farm activity, which increases traceability and compliance for buyers/exporters and improves access to formal output markets for smallholder providers.