Syngenta’s ambitious plans for growth in seeds
−− Interview with Alexander Tokarz, Head Global Marketing Seeds at Syngenta
Jul. 9, 2018
Recently, AgroPages invited Alexander Tokarz, Head Global Marketing Seeds at Syngenta, to share his ideas of the company’s presence in global seed market, strategic target in asset acquisitions, GMO corn trait litigation in US and also the opportunity of Syngenta in Chinese seed market.
1.Could you please introduce Syngenta’s performance in the global seed market?
The global seed market is worth some $40 billion a year, and has doubled over the last decade. Over half its value comes from corn and soybean, and 57 percent of sales are made in just three markets: North America, Brazil and China.
Syngenta is one of the world’s three largest developers and producers of seed. We have leadership positions in several crops and geographies. We are the number one or two seed company in global sunflower, wheat, barley and several vegetables crops such as specialty tomatoes, watermelons, brassica, and sweetcorn. Following the acquisition of Nidera Seeds in February this year, Syngenta is the number two seed player in Latin America in terms of both market value and hectares planted with Syngenta seed. And last but not least, we are among the leading multinational seed companies in China and South Asia.
To meet the complexity of our customers’ needs, we deliver constant innovation and performance improvement. In 2017, we invested more than $0.5 billion in breeding and R&D to accelerate our rate of innovation to bring better products to markets faster.
We have ambitious plans to grow Syngenta’s share of the global seed market, both organically as well as through acquisitions and strategic partnerships in our core crops and geographies.
2.Since the end of last year, Syngenta has acquired several companies including seed and digital farming companies, what’s the strategic target in these asset acquisitions?
Syngenta has ambitious plans for growth in seeds. And it is a unique time because there is so much M&A activity going on thanks to industry consolidation and the market is reshaping. There are a lot of assets becoming available either by choice or forced by regulators.
Nidera in Latin America is a great acquisition for us – it’s a priority market for Syngenta, very important for our core crops of soybean and corn. We are taking the opportunity to create a new seeds business in Latin America that combines the best of both Syngenta and Nidera, allowing us to do more for growers in that market. We are expanding the choice and germplasm variety we can offer growers through licensing agreements. And there will be more to come.
Digital technologies are rapidly transforming agriculture. We are developing a growing portfolio of digital solutions and capabilities to support our customers, improve their experience with us, optimize their results, and increase the effectiveness of our stewardship and loyalty programs. Recently we made two acquisitions in this space as we build our capabilities: Farmshots in the US, an innovator of high-resolution satellite imagery; and Strider in Brazil, a digital farm management company. As part of the Syngenta Ventures fund we also hold minority positions in a number of digital start-ups.
3. Early April, Syngenta India sold part of seed business to Crystal Crop Protection. As you said Syngenta is aggressively seeking acquisitions and collaboration in seed business, so why sell seed asset in India?
We divested the India pearl-millet, sorghum and fodder businesses to Crystal Crop Protection Ltd in April. These are small businesses in very local crops, and they didn’t bring us the scale and opportunity we need to meet our goals. So this was a strategic divestment for Syngenta, enabling us to focus resources on our growth opportunities, and on our stronger crops and markets.
Alongside the Nidera acquisition, we have also made acquisitions which strengthen our position in crops where we already have a leadership position, for example the acquisition of Abbott & Cobb in the US, which strengthens our leading sweet corn business.
4.This March, Syngenta agreed to pay $1.5B to end GMO corn trait litigation in US, which is believed to be the largest agricultural litigation settlement in U.S. history. How do you think of this case?
Agrisure Viptera and Agrisure Duracade demonstrate significant, scientifically validated benefits for growers in combatting a wide spectrum of pests. Syngenta launched these products to help ensure that American farmers could access the latest seed technology approved in the U.S. There is no dispute these products were fully approved by all U.S. regulatory authorities at the time of their launch.
The proposed settlement would allow both sides to avoid the uncertainty of ongoing litigation and does not constitute an admission by either side concerning the merits of the parties’ allegations and defenses. With this litigation largely resolved, Syngenta will continue its focus on agricultural innovation, and continues to believe that American farmers should have access to the latest U.S.-approved technologies to help them increase their productivity and crop yield.
5. Speaking of GMOs, 2020 will be the dead-line year for GMO commercialization in China as the government included the phrase “promotion of commercialization of GM crops” in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan in 2015. What’s the influence of ChemChina’s takeover of Syngenta for the GMO commercialization in China?
The 13th five year plan has a comprehensive range of objectives to enable China to achieve basic self-sufficiency in cereal grains and absolute food security. This will be achieved by making agricultural structural adjustments and raising production capacity for agricultural products while also improving quality and safety. This will result in a better structured, more effective supply of agricultural products.
Agricultural biotechnology is one of the most promising technologies that can contribute to the overall objective of the 13th FYP. Ag biotechnology has been widely adopted in major agricultural countries, especially in the US and South America and has proven to deliver substantial agronomic, environmental, economic and social benefits to farmers and society.
Syngenta, as part of the ChemChina group, is fully committed to playing a vital role to support Chinese agricultural modernization through partnerships with key stakeholders. Syngenta respects the Chinese government’s position on commercialization of biotech crops, and is willing to support the access of biotechnology for Chinese growers according to the Government’s timeline.
Under the ownership of ChemChina we have a long-term view to support Chinese agriculture and achieve our ambition to become the most collaborative and trusted team in agriculture, providing leading seeds and crop protection innovations to enhance the prosperity of farmers.
6. In April, Syngenta China published 2018 Vegetable Seed Planning and in March ChemChina also cooperated with China's Longping High-Tech setting up a corn seed JV, what’s the challenge and opportunity for Syngenta in Chinese seed market after the acquisition by ChemChina?
China is the biggest growth opportunity in the world for the food value chain and the ag industry. The market is already the second largest seed market globally but still highly fragmented, and with the initiatives outlined in China’s Five-Year Plan, consolidation and professionalization of this market will be inevitable. Now under the ownership of ChemChina, we are in the best position to lead this consolidation in China.
Technological innovation is at the heart of China’s agricultural modernization agenda, and we are investing resources in areas important to the Chinese market. One example is biotechnology where we are strengthening our capabilities at Syngenta’s Beijing Innovation Center. The center is at the forefront of biotechnology in the country, and is leading our global genome editing program. The center is also driving important collaborations with the Chinese institutes. We now have about 2000 employees in China and we continue to bring top talent from across the company to China.
7. In the past two or three years, any new seed technologies/ trait launched in Syngenta? Could you please introduce some representatives?
The most important development in 2017 was China’s import approval for AGRISURE DURACADE®, our trait for effective control of corn rootworm. This enables us to offer growers more choice with new hybrids that combine top quality genetics with the most advanced rootworm control technology. This destructive pest currently costs US growers more than $1 billion annually in yield losses and control costs Last year, we also strengthened our soybean trait portfolio with in-licensing deals, giving us the most trait options in the US and Latin America markets, enabling us to respond to customer needs and preferences.
Across all our crops we have launched numerous new varieties, often with new and value- adding native traits and characteristics helping growers to better manage their crops.
8. Outlook of Syngenta in Global seed industry.
We are very confident about the outlook for Syngenta Seeds. We are expanding our capabilities to be able to do even more for growers around the world, and we have a very clear strategy for growth. We will continue to focus on our strongest crops - corn, soybean, sunflower, cereals and vegetables – and the markets where there is the greatest opportunity for growth. China is one of the most important markets for us, as is the Americas and Eastern Europe. We will continue to seek growth through acquisitions and strategic partnerships, and by working with partners in academia, start-ups and institutes we are poised to translate the newest scientific achievements into winning products for growers.
Please download AgroPages' latest magazine - 2018 Seed Special to see more.