In regions where smallholder farmers dominate agricultural systems, access to diverse and quality seeds is essential to produce more and better food while increasing income and improving livelihoods. When quality seeds are not available due to inadequate distribution systems, they become too expensive for smallholder farmers, increasing pressure on already scarce natural resources to meet the growing demand for food. The seed industry holds the key to advancing food security and achieving Zero Hunger through timely delivery of improved seed varieties to farmers in remote areas with limited distribution channels and infrastructure.
In Western and Central Africa, 32 companies report a presence in almost all 22 index countries, with one or more companies in each country except Guinea-Bissau. However, company presence is low in Equatorial Guinea, Central Africa Republic, Gabon, Liberia, Guinea and Mauritania. Companies with a broad presence in Western Central Africa are Novalliance Group, with a presence in 20 countries and East-West Seed, which is present in 18 countries.
The 32 companies assessed for Eastern and Southern African are present in all 19 countries, with two or more companies present per country. However, companies report a low presence in Burundi, Lesotho, Somalia, and Eswatini. Companies with the most extensive presence in the region are Seed Co and Corteva Agriscience, both with presences in 16 countries.
Together, 31 companies are present in all 14 South and South-east Asia countries, with at least five companies present in each country. Despite this, company presence in Afghanistan, Laos and Cambodia could be increased. Companies with a broad presence in the region are East-West Seed with a presence in 14 countries, and Rijk Zwaan, Takii and Advanta, who all have a presence in 13 countries. Increasingly, companies from South and Southeast Asia, notably India, are setting up operations in sub-Saharan Africa, making their seeds and varieties work in relatively similar climatic conditions.
Companies report no significant impact on the protocols to ensure quality and safety practices in marketing and sales of improved varieties across the regions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, during the COVID-19 lockdowns, even though seed companies were recognised as essential service providers in all regions, they reported an impact on their distribution channels to reach smallholder farmers. They were faced with minimalised seed distribution opportunities, increased transport fares at the local and international level, and closed outlets/agro dealer shops. The extent to which these disruptions affected smallholder farmer production could not be verified. Several companies, however, responded by developing new distribution channels, strategies for resilient supply chains, and addressing gaps in access to digital marketing for farmers.