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China’s Seed Treatment Industry: Difficulties and Challenges Need to Be Solved for Better Developmentqrcode

−− Interview with Feng Yongjun, Director, DBN-CAU Seed Health Centre

Nov. 13, 2020

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Nov. 13, 2020

6580310092614584.jpgChina’s seed treatment industry, compared with that in developed countries such as European countries and the United States, started relatively late with a small share of the crop protection market, and its products, technologies and supporting services are relatively backward. With the adjustment of agricultural structure and the implementation of pesticide reduction program, China has gradually witnessed good market potential and development prospects in seed treatment.


Da Bei Nong Group is an enterprise that started seed treatment business earlier in China and also a professional organization that started earlier to provide scientific and effective solutions to seed health problems by closely cooperating with scientific research institutes. AgroPages recently invited Mr. Feng Yongjun, Director of DBN-CAU Seed Health Centre, to share his insights on the current situation and problems of China’s seed treatment industry. He also put forward good opinions on the industry difficulties and challenges based on his years of working experience.


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Feng Yongjun

Director, DBN-CAU Seed Health Centre


Given various data of market forecast, the seed treatment industry is promising. What do you think are the main factors that promote the growth of the market?


As far as I am concerned, the growth of the seed treatment market is driven by the following factors:


First, increasing importance is attached to the safety and environmental protection in global agriculture, leading to gradual adjustments in pesticide structure and application amount. The pesticide reduction program proposed by China several years ago is an example. One of the main reasons why seed treatment has such a performance lies in its high targeting. Different from the general field pesticide spraying, seed treatment focuses on the application of pesticides on crop seeds, thus greatly reducing the amount of pesticides used. The market share of seed treatment is increasing year by year although it is small currently.


Second, the changes of global natural environment in recent years and frequent occurrence of plant diseases and insect pests have brought a greater impact on the entire agricultural production. Seed treatment technology, as an efficient means of crop protection, is characterized by low investment costs, low environmental pollution, good control efficiency, high pesticide utilization rate and considerable economic benefits, thus becoming an indispensable planting solution for farmers.


Third, some seeds are increasingly mature in monoseeding alongside the development of precision drilling technology and the increase of seed costs, making it a basic requirement to ensure single grain seedling. Coupled with many factors such as seed price, farmers face increasing seed use costs, so they pay more attention to the seedling rate. As an important technical guarantee of seedling rate, seed treatment is gradually accepted by farmers.


Fourth, multinational agricultural companies are constantly adjusting their business strategies to adapt to the global agricultural development by connecting the whole industrial chain of “seed, pesticide, crop protection services, machinery, processing, grain processing, etc.” instead of providing merely “product services”. As an indispensable part of seed processing and crop protection services, seed treatment is an important carrier connecting seed enterprises and pesticide enterprises.


What are the current bottlenecks that are difficult to break through in terms of seed treatment technology and application?


The effective combination of technology and application is the biggest bottleneck at present. The current application is mainly driven by pesticide producers. However, the market demand is constantly being discovered. Some problems cannot be solved by products and technology alone, for example, some diseases require integrated control.


Second, it is necessary to speed up the update of processing equipment. Good processing equipment and sowing equipment are needed for good products and good seeds. Hence, the machining equipment is also indispensable to the current seed treatment.


Third, seed treatment technology has not been fully valued by the majority of farmers, and the supporting crop protection technology services in the use process have not come into play, resulting in a failure to achieve twice the result with half the effort and an impact on farmers’ confidence in seed treatment technology. It is also very unfavorable to the promotion in the future.


Fourth, the external environmental factors have not been paid enough attention, coupled with related factors such as temperature, humidity and depth of seeding in particular, leading to many unexpected situations in the use process, which brings great risks to agricultural production and farmers.


What are the characteristics of China’s seed primer market? What is the current situation of seed treatment technology and product development?


In terms of products, there are more than 50 pesticide ingredients registered for seed treatment, many of which are generic and less self-innovated. Moreover, there are certain risks under new regulations on pesticide administration and market supervision as the registered products and objects are relatively concentrated.


In terms of crops in application, field crops (wheat, corn, cotton) account for more than 80%, while other oil plants (peanut, soybean, sunflower) account for less than 10%, supplemented by vegetables and traditional Chinese medicinal materials, etc. With the popularization of broadcast sowing technology of high-quality hybrid rice and conventional rice, as well as the promotion of upland rice, the rice market is expected to be promising in the future.


In terms of production technology, the gradual maturity of formulation processing technology, adjuvant development, filmogen technology and other technologies makes China’s seed treatment industry advantageous in competition to a certain extent. Nevertheless, the industrial and national standards of related products regarding, for example, fluidity, wear resistance, shedding rate and safety after taking seeds into account also need to be promulgated and standardized. In terms of after-sales service, domestic enterprises have gradually improved their overall technical service awareness and developed relevant matched high-end laboratories and technicians to a certain scale.


What are the characteristics of the application, promotion and marketing of seed treatment products in China?


Most of the current products are generic because of the lack of independently innovative products, leading to an adoption of a second mover strategy in application, promotion and marketing. A strong technical service system is needed to guarantee the application and promotion of seed treatment, such as experimental demonstration, laboratory safety and physical testing at the early stage, debugging in processing and later field performance appraisal, etc. Few domestic enterprises can continue to invest in consideration of large amount of investment and long duration, which also results in the lack of innovation and continuity in promotion approaches.


Seed treatment products for field crops in particular are still mainly distributed and promoted through traditional channels like distributors because there are few requirements to technical service and the processing work is completed by farmers themselves, making it significantly affected by the regional planting habits.


Some seeds are also processed in the seed processing plant, most of which are hybrid seeds (such as corn, cotton, vegetables, etc.) with higher added value and seeds with a higher degree of mechanized planting (monoseeding technology), because farmers have higher requirements for the rate of seedling emergence.


Please introduce the seed treatment business of Da Bei Nong Group. What advanced ideas and specific project practices does the company have?


Da Bei Nong Group started its seed treatment business earlier, with focus on channel marketing at the earlier stage, and achieved a good reputation among farmers. In recent years, close cooperation with scientific research institutes including China Agricultural University has been developed on the basis of DBN scientific research platform. Especially in 2015, the “DBN—CAU Seed Health Centre” was established in conjunction with China Agricultural University. As a professional institution that provides scientific and effective solutions to seed health problems, the center is mainly engaged in such professional technical services as seed health testing, seed quality testing, seed storage safety testing, seed vigor testing, and encapsulated seed quality testing as well as provision of individualized service solutions based on seed health status.


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In your opinion, what is the development prospect of China’s seed treatment industry?


1. Market capacity


Globally, the seed treatment market accounts for about 20% of the pesticide market in the United States, more than 15% in Europe and more than 12% in Brazil. Although it only accounts for about 6.5% in China, there are great potential in the seed treatment market in the future due to the promotion of policy on pesticide reduction and people’s attention to seed treatment application in recent years.


Additionally, China is the country with the most perfect global chemical industrial chain, making it advantageous greatly in product development. Meanwhile, the world’s top multinational companies take China as the most important growth market, thus promoting the entire industrial upgrading and cooperation.


2. Product registration


Before the introduction of the new policy, the number of registered products, especially the registered patented products, was increasing year by year, whereas such products were still dominated by mixtures. Personally speaking, it is suggested that domestic enterprises should consider registering single ingredient products in view of the current registration policies and fees, as well as the convenience and cost of use.


The registered crops and objects tend to be diversified, and more and more minor crop seeds (vegetables, Chinese herbs, flowers) are registered particularly. Microbial products have gradually outperformed others and become an effective supplement to chemical agents in addressing some difficult problems. However, the current shelf life and mixed use with chemical pesticides are still problems to be solved.


3. Enterprise participation


In recent years, many domestic enterprises such as Da Bei Nong Group have gradually increased their investment in scientific research and market promotion. Some enterprises have even established specialized laboratories and technical service teams to continuously advance towards “effective pesticides, superior seeds and good approaches” of agriculture. This is undoubtedly a huge boost to the domestic seed treatment market.


In short, China’s seed treatment market is promising due to a lot of possibilities and unlimited space for development, and it is worthy of joint efforts of many enterprises and people with passion for seed treatment!


(Note: The seed treatment in this article is discussed from the perspective of products used on seed treatment only, not seed disinfection, encapsulation and pelletization, among others. Your comment on any deficiency is highly appreciated! - by Feng Yongjun)


This article was initially published in AgroPages '2020 Market Insight' magazine. Download it to read more articles.

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