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Indian agriculture facing sustainability issues: Davor Pisk, COO of Syngentaqrcode

Apr. 15, 2014

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Apr. 15, 2014

Indian agriculture facing sustainability issues: Davor Pisk, COO of Syngenta

In an exclusive interview with Economic times (ET), Davor Pisk,COO of Syngenta,talks about new products, environmental issues and plans to grow through acquisitions in India. Edited excerpts:

It has been almost three years since Syngenta introduced an integrated plan to boost sales to $25 billion by 2020. Do you see any progress?

We are very pleased with the progress we made since we announced our new integrated strategy. And we have been able to build a very different set of connections with our growers and our stakeholders as a result of our integrated strategy.

So, we now have all of our organisations around the world operating as one team, across different technologies and we are able to bring together the benefits of seeds, seed care, biotechnology and crop protection chemicals under one roof.

Is it making any difference to people, processes?

I think what our employees have appreciated is the personal learning and development opportunity this has given them. So, they have learned about different parts of our business, they have become familiar with new portfolios of technologies; they have found this rewarding and exciting.

But most importantly, it is the way which they are now able to talk to their customers that has created all sorts of new opportunities.

You have also launched 'Good Growth Plan' mainly to minimise the disconnect between your perception of agriculture and the perception of society. How is this shaping up?

We launched the Good Growth Plan (GGP) last year in recognition of the fact that we certainly needed to change not just the perception of Syngenta, we needed to change the way Syngenta views the world too. So, we have been very committed to improve agriculture productivity and that we still believe is a critically important message.

But what we have been even more concerned about is the impact of agriculture, particularly intensive agriculture, on the environment, and we realised it was incredibly important for Syngenta now... not just to focus on productivity gains alone, but also to recognise that we needed to achieve productivity gain in a sustainable way.

So, being in full recognition of the limited resources that agriculture has to rely on — whether it be in the form of water scarcity, whether it be in terms of limitation that we have on land, also the limitation increasingly will have on labor and the portability of labor in the agriculture production system.

The perception of disconnect is quite high in countries like India. Do you agree?

We saw this disconnect, frankly across many parts of the world when we undertook research last year to get underneath the challenges of meeting the needs of the growing population with limited resources.

We found that the most opinion leaders, stakeholders saw the prime responsibility for providing food security was that of the government. It wasn't necessarily the agriculture industry, it wasn't business it was just the government and of course, the government has an important role to play.

But we, also as a company engaged in agriculture, want to play our role. And we have a lot of opportunities to present ourselves in India.

How do you see the growth potential in India? What are your expansion plans?

We see great potential of growth in India. Because essentially Indian agriculture has a fundamental need to become much more productive and sustainable in the years ahead. But there are some real sustainability challenges, particularly around water, which is probably the most extreme challenge that agriculture has.

We are excited about our new products, which are in a position to be launched in India. We have received a number of new registrations for products in the chemicals area, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides covering the key crops in rice, soybeans, cotton and vegetables. So, we have a number of new innovations to launch in India in 2014 and yes beyond the chemistry area.

Syngenta has grown through acquisitions in markets like Africa. Do you see any potential target in emerging markets like India?

We are always on the look-out for acquisitions that will complement our existing skills and particularly in markets where we don't have critical scales. So, in emerging markets, if there are good technologies that become available, we certainly will be looking at acquisitions.

You mentioned African, where we acquired a white corn genetics business based in Zambia last year. This helped to complement our portfolio in corn seed, but also to give us a platform in an important growing market of the African continent.

We see potential opportunities in other emerging markets. Who knows, perhaps one day there will be additional acquisitions in Indian market. We certainly benefited from the acquisition of Devgen just over a year ago and there may be other opportunities in the future too.

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