Syngenta Opens 1st African Seed Research Facility, Plans No. 2

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Swiss agribusiness Syngenta this week opened a seed treatment facility — its first in Africa — in South Africa with plans for another in Kenya in two years, Bloomberg reports in BusinessWeek.

Syngenta applies crop-protection chemicals directly to seeds before sowing, which it says protects plants when they are most vulnerable.

The world’s largest producer of crop chemicals, Basel-based Syngenta said it will start a second African seed-treatment research-and-development institute in Kenya in 2016 and it plans to expand in other West African countries in the next five years.

The global seed-treatment market is expected to grow from $2.5 billion to $4.5 billion by 2018, the company said in statement.

The company’s first R & D facility on the continent is in Brits, 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

The Brits unit is Syngenta’s 11th such plant globally. It plans to have 18 by the end of 2016, said Abraham Vermeulen, the company’s regional head of corn, sugar and diverse field crops.

“Kenya is the second-biggest seeds market in Africa,” Vermeulen said. “We will be expanding to West African countries, most probably Nigeria, in the longer term.”

The company didn’t disclose the cost of the facility.

Syngenta is the world’s third-largest seedmaker with 10 percent of the market, according to Bloomberg Industries data. U.S.-based Monsanto Co. is the world’s largest with 30 percent, followed by DuPont Co., — also based in the U.S. — which makes Pioneer genetically modified corn, at 22 percent of the market, Bloomberg reports.

Syngenta said it is investing in South Africa, the continent’s biggest corn producer, to be closer to its customers.

“A farmer that does not have seed-care protection on his plant will likely lose half of his harvest,” Vermeulen said.

Treated seeds include cereals such as wheat, soy, corn, sunflower and vegetables, he said.