Access to Seeds Index 2019 - Western and Central Africa


The 2019 Access to Seeds Index Western and Central Africa is made up of 23 leading seed companies present in the region. The insights below are based on publicly available information and information disclosed by the companies upon engagement. The 17 companies headquartered in Africa are referred to as regional companies. The six companies headquartered outside the continent are referred to as global companies.

Main Findings

A majority of companies combine cereals and legumes in their field crop portfolio

Of the 23 index companies, 15 report having cereals and legumes in their field crop portfolio. Nine of these companies offer a broad portfolio, including vegetables. Maize (13 companies), rice (12) and sorghum (10) are the field crops that feature most often in company portfolios. Ten companies sell groundnut, soybean or cowpea.

Thirteen companies sell field crops and vegetables and five companies only sell vegetables. Although compared to other regions, legumes are found relatively often in company portfolios, only four companies report that a legume, soybean, is one of their three main business drivers. No companies report having pigeon pea, dry beans or chickpea in their portfolio. Seven companies report that maize is one of their main crops. Rice or onion is one of the main crops for five companies.

Open-pollinated varieties dominate seed company portfolios

For many crops, commercial farming relies on hybrid varieties, while subsistence farming is more reliant on open-pollinated varieties (OPVs). In addition, hybrids are economically more attractive for seed companies. Hence, the ratio of OPVs to hybrids in seed company portfolios is often used as an indicator of commercial progress of both the seed sector and agricultural production in a region.

In Western and Central Africa, only for maize, sunflower, cabbage, squash and cauliflower more companies report selling hybrids than OPVs. By comparison, in Eastern and Southern Africa, this is the case for 12 crops. Seven of the 23 index companies (30%) have OPVs available for their full portfolio, including for crops for which they sell hybrid varieties. Two companies, such as Maslaha Seeds, report selling only OPVs, with the exception of both OPVs and hybrids for maize.

Seeds are sold in package sizes tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers

The size of seed packages is a clear indicator of whether the industry is geared toward the needs of smallholder farmers. The majority of companies report selling seed in small packages, in some cases just 1gr per package. Small seed packages for cereals and legumes generally range from 50gr to 10kg, and for vegetables from 5gr to 2kg.

Value Seeds stands out as the only company selling small packages of 50gr and 100gr for soybean, rice, maize, wheat and sorghum. Value Seeds and SOPROSA offer most choice for field crops, selling up to five different package sizes per crop. In vegetables, most choice is offered by East-West Seed, Pop Vriend Seeds and the Novalliance companies Nankosem, Semagri, Technisem and Tropicasem: on average six different package sizes for each company.

Global companies sell varieties resulting from their own breeding; regional companies tend to license from other companies or public research

Companies can have their own breeding programs or license varieties from other sources, such as other companies or public breeding. Having breeding programs of their own enables companies to respond faster on new developments such as changing weather conditions or new pests and diseases.  The portfolio of global seed companies is for 50% of the crops the result of their own breeding programs.

For regional companies, this is only 12 percent. They tend to have breeding activities for a select number of field crops including legumes, such as Premier Seed for maize and sorghum and Soprosa for cowpea, maize and sorghum. Only East-West Seed and Novalliance partners Nankosem, Semagri, Technisem and Tropicasem report breeding activities for vegetables in the region.

The youngest variety is older than five years for most crops in the portfolio of regional companies

The age of the youngest varietindicates whether companies are releasing new varieties of crops that can help farmers cope with new developments such as new pest and diseases or changing weather conditions as a result of a changing climate. Global companies report that for 60% of the crops in their portfolio the youngest variety is less than three years old. For regional seed companies, that is true for 43% of the crops in their portfolio. Compared to regional companies in Eastern and Southern Africa this means that varieties are relatively young. 

However, this is mainly thanks to the portfolio of the three regional Novalliance companies that all carry at least one variety younger than 3 years for over 75% of the crops in their portfolio. The remaining companies report that only for 21% of the crops in their portfolio the youngest variety is less than 3 years old but for 48% older than five. Two companies report that for virtually all the crops in their portfolio, the youngest variety is older than five years.