Developing a Go-To-Market Approach for New and Improved Seed Adoption
This post is written by the Seeds2B team.
Smallholder farmers in developing countries lack access to affordable, high-quality seed of tropically adapted, improved varieties for a wide range of cash and subsistence crops. The commercial seed market in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, is estimated to be worth $400 million. However, this accounts for only around 10 percent of total seed use. It is estimated to grow to $1.6 billion over next 10 years. There is a gap in the Sub-Saharan Africa commercial seed sector of $1.2 billion, called the "missing middle." This lack of adoption is disappointing, considering much of the breeding for food security crops is in the public sector, where hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested each year. Seeds2B Africa has found that one reason new varieties are often not being adopted is because the handover between public plant breeding and private seed commercialization and production is disconnected. Our experience shows that ecosystem partners including Seeds2B Africa may approach this key challenge together by:
- Building capability in public organizations such as NARS and the CGIAR by addressing differing or missing roles, gaps in the variety commercialization process and underfunded or uncosted activities;
- Developing a go-to-market approach for the public sector, whereby newly bred varieties from the public sector including Feed the Future Innovation Labs are not merely “released” into national systems and remain “on the shelf,” but are linked to the needs of downstream partners including dissemination to farmers;
- Building business skills for clearly addressable target markets in public plant breeding programs. Varieties are often positioned as trying to address all segments rather than the commercial needs of a subset of farmers and the local seed sector;
- Linking breeders to African seed companies that do not typically carry out their own breeding and creating a standardized approach to manage this handover;
- Facilitating the technology transfer of new varieties (both public and private) to address unmet demand, including through legal agreements and their implementation;
- Developing means to provide patient capital and technical assistance to support seed companies in investing in new varieties of more marginal crops;
- Building confidence in seed companies to be able to invest more in production and dissemination of a wider range of crops for emerging markets;
- Developing ways to support specific parts of the variety commercialization process sustainably in the future; for example, early generation seed production;
- Providing policy support and advancing good regulatory practices conducive to creating new seed markets at the national and regional levels so that seed companies face lower transaction costs for seeking marketing consent for products in new territories; and
- Bringing the private sector into more marginal seed markets five or more years earlier than they otherwise would.