Status Africa

Analysis shows investments in fledgling seed companies with local focus could net big returns for African food production on small farms, according to the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Locally-owned African seed companies participating in a program to offer high-yield crop varieties to smallholder farmers across the continent have collectively become the largest seed producers in sub-Saharan Africa, shows data from a new report released at the Grow Africa Investment Forum alongside the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The analysis by AGRA reveals 80 small- to medium-size African seed companies in 16 countries are on track to produce more than 80,000 metric tons of professionally certified seed in 2014.
“The rapid growth of local seed companies over a very short time period is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit percolating in communities across Africa and to the pent-up demand among Africa’s smallholder farmers for improved, high-yield crop varieties,” says Joe DeVries, director of AGRA’s Program for Africa’s Seed Systems (PASS).
AGRA launched PASS in 2007 to inject new energy into Africa’s commercial seed sector, which was failing to provide African farmers with a steady supply of locally-adapted, improved crop varieties — something that farmers elsewhere in the world take for granted. The stagnant state of commercial seed production often is cited as a key reason why yields per hectare in Africa for staple crops like maize are up to 80 percent below what farmers outside of Africa achieve.
According to the report, “Planting the Seeds of a Green Revolution in Africa,” PASS started out working with a handful of companies that together produced about 2,000 metric tons of seed.
Today, it’s partnering with more than 80 companies across the continent that produce professionally certified seed for an array of African staple crops including maize, cassava, millet, rice, sorghum, beans, sweet potato, cowpea, groundnut, soybean and pigeon pea. These companies are focusing on varieties “carefully selected by local crop breeders for their compatibility with specific African agricultural environments.”  — Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

Status Canada

Canadian mustard and sunflower seed growers received support from the federal government to increase export sales abroad.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz made the $230,000 funding announcement to the Canadian Special Crops Association (CSCA). In a release, it says the money will help boost international trade efforts.
“The multi-year Agri-Marketing funding will enable Canada’s special crops industry to deliver innovative, healthy and sustainable foods consistently and reliably to markets around the world,” says Gordon Bacon, CEO of the Canadian Special Crops Association.
Specifically, the industry will focus on two projects directed by the Saskatchewan Mustard Development Commission and the National Sunflower Association of Canada. The initiative’s purpose is to improve variety options for mustard and sunflower seeds, focusing on health and nutritional benefits.
According to the release, the Canadian pulse and special crop industry had an export value of more than $3 billion in 2013. The investment was made through the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s AgriMarketing Program, offered under the Growing Forward 2 policy framework.  — Amanda Brodhagen,

Status China

China’s crop seed companies have declined in number during the past three years due to mergers and acquisitions, and the government encourages them to become globally competitive, a senior official said during a May 20 press conference.
The number of seed enterprises in China decreased to around 5,200 from more than 8,700 in 2011, down by 40 percent, shared Yu Xinrong, China’s vice minister of agriculture.
The number of Chinese seed companies whose registered capital exceeds 100 million yuan ($16.2 million) jumped to 106, up nearly 200 percent during the period, Yu reported. The combined sales volume of the country’s biggest 50 crop seed companies accounted for more than 30 percent of the total, and the top 10 industry leaders spent a total of nearly 600 million yuan ($96.2 million) on research and development annually.
Beijing encourages mergers and acquisitions of domestic crop seed companies and supports them to improve R&D, production, management and service capabilities to narrow their gaps with global leaders, Yu said.
The country’s combined crop seed export volume has surpassed $300 million annually, data from the Ministry of Agriculture revealed. —

Status Pakistan

Heavy machinery worth millions of rupees, purchased for the agriculture department’s seed industry project under the Agriculture Development Fund (ADF) in 2012, has been found to be of poor quality, with its purchase overshadowed by mismanagement.
Districts officials of the project have expressed dissatisfaction over the machines’ functioning and demanded a probe into the purchasing deal.
A source within the Agriculture, Livestock and Cooperative Department told The Express Tribune that as the machines did not meet the required specifications, they were hampering operations of the department in various districts across the province. The total budget of the project was 40 million rupees ($404,520) while the eight machines cost an estimated 7.3 million rupees.
The short tender notice for the machines was floated on July 13, 2011, in a national English daily. The tender included seed processing plants, seed treatment equipment and power generators. The tender for seed cleaning machine/processing plant or seed grader was specified to clean 1.5 to 2 metric tonnes of seed per hour.
A six-member purchasing committee was constituted Sept. 30, 2011. According to a department notification, the body was delegated powers under the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Procurement of Goods, Works and Services Rules 2003, for purchasing the equipment under the seed industry project’s ADF during 2011-12.
A source within the department said the committee was kept in the dark during the purchasing process, which he claimed was against rules and regulations.
A committee member, Abdul Rehman, who served as assistant director (seed) in the department said, “I was not consulted despite the fact that the committee was formed for supervising the procurement process. This was completely against our terms of responsibilities,” he added.
The source said the seed grader machine wanted in the initial sketch was not purchased and some eight other machines, not meeting the required specifications, were purchased due to which most of them are lying non-functional.
The copy of the original sketch also shows that the eight machines were not purchased according to the requirements.
A seed storekeeper in DI Khan, Jamil Khan, said the seed cleaning machine cannot be brought into use as it lacks necessary equipment to operate fully. He said the new machines only clean three bags of seeds in one hour and they need one that can clean 20 to 25 bags in the same period. — Kamran Khan, The Express Daily