Headquartered in Bangladesh, Lal Teer Seed Ltd (Lal Teer Seed) was established in 1995 as a joint venture between Multimode Group and East-West Seed. Previously known as East-West Seed Bangladesh Ltd, the company was renamed Lal Teer Seed in 2007. The company develops, produces and sells vegetable varieties to farmers, and it started producing rice seed in 2010. The company has also been active in the pesticide business since 2008 and, more recently, in the livestock sector. The company focuses on developing various vegetable crop varieties and rice, in addition to selling cotton. Smallholder farmers are the company’s main clientele in some markets.
Plant breeding activities in index regions Lal Teer Seed has its own breeding programme in Bangladesh and Nepal, and it invests in the capacity building of local research staff in the region. The company’s breeders attend both domestic training organised by national research institutes and universities, as well as international training run by the World Vegetable Center. The company supports its breeders and production specialists to pursue further education by, for example, providing paid study leave to breeders completing a PhD.
Developing improved varieties of global and local crops The company’s extensive breeding programme includes hybrid and open pollinated varieties (OPVs) of both field crops and vegetables. It focuses on developing resistance and tolerance to biotic and abiotic stress, including regionally important pests and diseases such as tomato yellow leaf curl virus (TYLCV). Notably, the company also develops improved varieties of a number of local crops, such as yardlong bean, amaranth, mustard and kang kong.
Seed production activities in index region and quality management in seed production in index countries Lal Teer Seed has seed production locations in Bangladesh, Nepal and India, where it involves local companies, farmer organisations and cooperatives. It further discloses that it runs seed production through a contract farming system that includes 5,000 farmers. The company established an international-level seed testing lab where the quality of all seeds are tested. The laboratory has got ISTA membership and is ISO certified (ISO 9001:2015).
Diverse portfolio The company has four or more varieties for the majority of crops in its portfolio in Bangladesh, with both hybrids and OPVs for the majority of crops in its regional portfolio.
Demonstration and promotion strategies The company has demonstration and promotion programmes in all the index countries where it has sales, including field days, blog posts and YouTube videos that share stories of smallholder farmers. It specifically targets women smallholder farmers through its Homestead Gardening programme, which aims to assist women farmers in cultivating crops on the homestead.
Extension services Lal Teer Seed provides extension services to farmers in Bangladesh and Nepal, including demonstrations, training, troubleshooting and both in-person and online advisory services. The company runs a project in Bangladesh that employs spatial and geodata to give weather-related information and advisory services to smallholder farmers. Lal Teer is also collaborating with an international consortium to provide drought-resistant and saline-tolerant crops to farmers in southern Bangladesh, as well as educating them on techniques in drip irrigation, raised-bed farming, and other ways to combat the region’s increasingly salty soil. The company has reached about 1.5 million farmers through these activities in the period 2018-2020.
Information and communications technology (ICT) With the goal of improving agricultural productivity and increasing farmers’ income, Lal Teer Seed launched a collaboration project called Geodata Based Information Services for Smallholder Farmers of Bangladesh (GEOBIS). The project includes an Android-based mobile application that features a system which enables farmers to ask questions, recommendations of seed varieties, geo-area information for crop monitoring and crop diagnostics. A phone center was also developed by the company, where agriculture professionals provide answers to farmers’ questions.
Access to seeds for smallholder farmers and governance and accountability The company’s strategy for ensuring access to seeds for smallholder farmers includes objectives for seed production, marketing and sales and capacity building, with region-specific targets for field days and farmer meetings in Bangladesh. Lal Teer Seed has an opportunity to expand its strategy to include objectives for other aspects of ensuring access to seeds. While the company’s Committee for Governance and Accountability, chaired by its company chairman, is responsible for implementing its access to seeds strategy, the company could further strengthen accountability by linking the highest governance body’s remuneration policy to its strategy.
Conservation of genetic resources The company conserves its own genetic material in company genebanks. However, it could provide greater clarity on how it promotes agrobiodiversity and the preservation of genetic resources in the region through its collaborations with international genebanks, such as International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the World Vegetable Center.
Overall, the company provides limited insight into its position and activities related to genetic resources and intellectual property management. As it is important that seed companies contribute to genetic resources and intellectual property management that supports smallholder agriculture, the company could provide more insights into its activities for others to learn from.
Local participation in breeding/variety development The company’s sales, marketing and product development teams communicate feedback from farmers to its research and development team. However, the company could improve in this area by involving local consumers, traders and smallholder farmers in the earlier stages of breeding/variety development and by giving specific attention to feedback from women farmers.
Engaging smallholder farmers in seed production The company involves smallholders in its seed production activities, with about a third of its seed produced by smallholders in Bangladesh, Nepal and India. Lal Teer Seed offers contracts to smallholder farmers in Bangladesh, but these do not outline arrangements on product prices or sharing of profits and risks that are favourable for smallholder farmers in index countries.
Social and labour standards in seed production Lal Teer Seed states that the use of forced labour and child labour is not allowed in the company, specifying that its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) monitoring committee supervises these issues and ensures that these social standards are respected. However, the company does not provide sufficient detail as to how compliance with these social standards, including the health and safety of farmers, is monitored across its seed production. Furthermore, the company does not disclose standards whether it pays its workers a living wage or requires its intermediaries to do so.
Other agricultural inputs The company makes other agricultural inputs available to smallholder farmers, including insecticides and fungicides. While Lal Teer Seed promotes the use of other agricultural inputs in appropriate quantities, it has an opportunity to disclose further information on how it promotes the sustainable use of these inputs with instructions suitable to smallholder farmers.
Programmes for women farmers The company discloses that they have been increasing women involvement in agriculture, reaching around 400,000 women smallholder farmers in the region during the period 2018-2020. However, it does not disclose evidence of programmes that are targeted specifically towards building the capacity of women farmers or in which more than 50% of the participants were women.