Seed experts from countries in South and Southeast Asia met in Hyderabad, India on 24 October 2017 to discuss the outline of a regional Access to Seeds Index.
Experts stressed the importance of assessing in more detail the way seed companies reach women farmers. “Due to urbanization, the region is experiencing a feminization of smallholder agriculture. For example, how many female marketing and sales staff and extension workers does the company have in the field? Male staff will find it much more difficult to reach female smallholders,” one expert stated.
Experts also welcomed the inclusion of typical smallholder crops such as groundnut, chickpea and pigeon pea in the crop scope of the index. However, it was acknowledged that probably relatively few seed companies have these crops in their portfolio. In addition, experts recommended including crops such as rapeseed/mustard and sunflower, which are very important in the region as a source of cooking oil for urban and rural communities alike. They emphasized that “seed companies that are working on such minor crops and varieties suitable to rainfed conditions should receive higher scores.”
Additional research will also be carried out on additional companies that can be added to the list of leading companies, as experts felt that the provisional list of leading companies included in the scope for South and Southeast Asia was not yet complete.
“We need to make this a ‘pinching’ instrument for the seed industry and its investors,” said one expert. The meeting’s comments and discussions are an important input to fine-tuning and further optimizing the methodology for a first Regional Access to Seeds Index for South and Southeast Asia.