Seed is the most crucial input needed to achieve food productivity and agricultural development in any country. Most of the world food production is being carried out by smallholder farmers. To feed the teeming world population there is need to strengthen and improve smallholder farmers’ access to quality seed varieties. It has been shown that farmers who rely on informal sectors (where farmers selected and saved seeds from their own fields for the next season or relied on seeds supplied by their community) for their seed supply record low yield and productivity compared to those that sourced theirs from formal sectors (Intensive seed production developed into a specialized task, carried out by both small and large, often R&D seed companies alongside public research institutes).
Smallholder farmers are responsible for 70% of Africa’s food supply and an estimated 80% of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa combined. In Latin America, smallholders farm almost 35% of total cultivated land. Globally, there are approximately 2.5 billion people involved in full- or part-time smallholder agriculture, managing an estimated 500 million small farms.
The seed companies either owned by Government or private individuals/groups are needed produce viable and climate-resilient seed varieties that will enable smallholder grow more and better food. Seed companies can play a key role in developing suitable varieties and making quality seeds available to smallholder farmers, helping to transform agricultural systems and produce more in a sustainable way.
According to Access to seed Index (2016), a billion people go to bed hungry every day and two billion suffer from malnutrition. The global population is expected to grow by a further two billion in the coming decades, precisely in those regions that are currently considered food insecure. In these regions where agricultural systems are dominated by smallholder farmers, access to the key inputs to produce more and better food is often lacking. Quality seeds of improved varieties have enabled farmers in advanced agricultural systems to triple their yields.
The Access to Seeds Index adopts Global Index that compares global seed companies and a Regional Index that ranks regional and national players. The strategy aims to increase access to seeds for smallholder farmers and incorporates the following six dimensions: availability, affordability, suitability, capability, profitability and autonomy. Access to seed Index is being funded by the, Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs; Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Both global and regional players are well positioned to contribute to smallholder farmer development. Global companies have advanced R&D capacities, play a pivotal role in shaping the market and can use their geographic spread to transfer solutions that work in one region to other regions. The Index focuses on companies with an integrated seed business model, covering the full seed value chain, from R&D and production through distribution.
Access to seed index report reveals that, DuPont Pioneer tops the Global Index of Field Crop Seed Companies, closely followed by Syngenta and Bayer CropScience. East-West Seed clearly outperforms its peers in the Global Index of Vegetable Seed Companies, again followed by Syngenta and Bayer CropScience. East-West Seed also leads the Regional Index for Eastern Africa, followed by a cluster of four companies that originate in the region: Victoria Seeds, East African Seed, Kenya Seed Company and NASECO.