East-West Seed tops Access to Seed Index

25 February 2016

Bridging the gap between seed companies and smallholder farmers

East-West Seed tops global Seed Index Improving smallholder farmers' access to quality seeds is a crucial first step to achieve the goal of feeding the world sustainably.

East-West Seed ranks ​ #1 ​in​ ​the ​ Access to Seeds Index in 2 out of 3 indices published in February 2016. 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.

Bill Gates, speaking at a recent forum on innovation, emphasized the importance of agriculture in achieving global prosperity: “Over 70% 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.”

It is estimated that by 2050 the world needs 70% 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.

Mr. 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 Eastern Africa’. The Index praises East-West Seed’s commitment to smallholder 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 CEO Mr. 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. When we ​​do this, ​we achieve several goals at the same time: t​he farmer's income increases, consumers have access to high quality vegetables, and we build an attractive and profitable seed business."

East-West Seed breeds tropical vegetable crops that are adapted to local markets and growing conditions East-West Seed breeds tropical vegetable crops that are adapted to local markets and growing conditions

Improving farmers’ income and livelihoods

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
  • Availability of small seed packages (about $1 per pouch) which are suited to small farmers with less than 2 hectares of land, representing 85% of the world’s farm holdings

Critical measures

The Index ranks individual companies on their efforts to enhance access to seeds. East-West Seed outperforms all other companies in 5 measurement areas: Public Policy & Stakeholder Engagement, Research & Development, Marketing & Sales, Capacity Building and Local Seed Sector Advancement.