A seed company formed by Dutch agriculturist Simon Groot and Filipino trader Benito Domingo in 1982 has become a multi-cultural organization with over 4,000 employees who provide high-quality vegetable seeds to 30 million farmers across the globe.
Initially called Hortigenetics Philippines Inc., the company was renamed East-West Seed Company Inc. as an evidence that a partnership between a European and Asian could succeed. Its goal was to blend European style seedsmanship with Asian tropical vegetables.
From its early work in the Philippines, the company expanded to include breeding programs in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, China and other Asian countries.
Today, East-West Seed Company distributes high-quality vegetable seeds in about 60 countries worldwide. From Africa to Asia, Australia to America, East-West Seed provides farmers better seeds for better yields.
East-West Seed currently leads the ranking of seed companies in two of three indices under the Access to Seeds Index which was published for the first time this year.
The index measures and compares the efforts of the world’s leading seed companies to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers.
The index was published by the Access to Seeds Index Foundation, an independent organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Dutch government. It aims to improve farmers’ access to a wider array of modern, more productive seed varieties by bridging the gap between seed companies and the smallholder farmer.
Improving smallholder farmers’ access to quality seeds is a crucial first step to achieve the goal of feeding the world sustainably.
Bill Gates, speaking at a recent forum on innovation, emphasized the importance of agriculture in achieving global prosperity. “Over 70 percent of the poor people in the world are farmers. They have small plots of land, very little information, seeds that are very old, not much credit, and they’re just getting by. The changes in the weather in the future will make things even tougher for them. Every country that has gone to prosperity has raised their agricultural productivity pretty dramatically,” said Gates.
It is estimated that by 2050, the world needs 70 percent more food to feed a population of nine billion, in an environment where less water and land is available. The only way to achieve this is by increasing farm productivity, more yield from less land and resources, and a more environmentally sustainable way of producing food.
Ido Verhagen, executive director of the Access to Seeds Foundation said: “We recognize that smallholder farmers represent an untapped opportunity to meet the challenge of global food security. Providing them access to quality seeds unlocks their potential to produce more food for the growing global population.”
East-West Seed leads the ‘Global Index for Vegetable Seed Companies’ and ‘Regional Index for EasternAfrica’. The index cites East-WestSeed’s commitment to small holder farmers,which is evident in all aspects of its business, including packaging, distribution, customer service, research and development, knowledge transfer and innovation.
According to the report, East-West Seed prioritizes the needs of smallholder farmers in the development of both local and global crops.
East-West Seed chief executive Bert van der Feltz said: “We are grateful to the Access to Seeds Foundation for putting smallholder farmers in the center. The index is an important barometer of the seed industry’s impact on smallholder farmers. They have been the driver of our business since East-West Seed was founded in 1982. It is important to assist them because they are the key to improving worldwide access to nutritious food, and they contribute to economic growth,” he said.
“When we do this, we achieve several goals at the same time: the farmer’s income increases, consumers have access to high quality vegetables, and we build an attractive and profitable seed business,” said van der Felts.
East-West Seed’s company mission is to improve the income and livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Its unique approach to business includes local breeding which caters to local demand and conditions, resulting in >800 varieties of 37 vegetable crops; local extension workers who train farmers in improved growing techniques in the Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Tanzania and in several West African countries; and availability of small seed packages (about $1 per pouch) which are suited to small farmers with less than 2 hectares of land, representing 85 percent of the world’s farm holdings.
East-West Seed breeds tropical vegetable crops that are adapted to local markets and growing conditions.
The index ranks individual companies on their efforts to enhance access to seeds. East-West Seed outperforms all other companies in five measurement areas: public policy and stakeholder engagement, research and development, marketing and sales, capacity building and local seed sector advancement.
East-West Seed introduced market-oriented plant breeding in Southeast Asia in 1982 by focusing on local markets and local needs.
Today, East-West Seed is the leader for tropical vegetable seeds in Asia and beyond. It holds leading market positions in Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It has also expanded its business activities in India, Vietnam, China, Latin America and Africa. East-West seeds are planted in the fields of 30 million farmers worldwide.
It produces and markets a wide portfolio of hybrid and open-pollinated seeds. The seeds are produced on over 6,000 hectares of land in Thailand, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar, employing 12,000 contract growers producing 3.8 million kilograms of seeds.
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