U.S. Planting Seed Trade
General Trade Summary
U.S. planting seed exports during July-October 1997 totaled 253,559 metric tons valued at $238.9 million, a decrease of 3 percent in volume but an increase of 17 percent in value over the same period in 1996. Imports for the period totaled 40,430 tons (6 percent below a year ago) valued at $89.8 million (10 percent above last year).
Following are excerpts from U.S. Agricultural Attache reports recently received in FAS/Washington. Copies of the complete reports may be obtained by contacting the Cotton, Oilseeds, Tobacco, and Seeds Division at the address, telephone or Fax number listed on the back cover.
India (Report number IN7116): In 1988 the government partially liberalized imports of seeds, mostly of fruits and vegetables. Since then, imports of seeds have increased, albeit from a low base. Government efforts to develop India's food processing sector and expand exports of processed food products are likely to generate increased demand for seeds of vegetable and fruit varieties that meet the needs of processors and foreign buyers.
Historically India has sought to be completely self-sufficient in seed production, like in most other agricultural commodities. Self sufficiency would reinforce both the authority and the importance of pubic sector research institutions which traditionally had a controlling voice in setting seed sector policy. The belated recognition of the fact that average crop yields in India are among the lowest in the world for most crops combined with the government's stated goal to aggressively pursue export opportunities for horticultural and other agricultural products led the Ministry of Agriculture to announce a New Policy on Seed Development in 1988.
The government was in the process of enacting a revised version of the Plant Variety Protection legislation as required under the GATT agreement during the winter session of the Parliament. However, with the collapse of the United Front government in late November, the enactment of the legislation will have to wait until a new government comes into place in March 1998. Provided the Indian government moves in the right direction as far as varietal protection is concerned, there is a vast potential for the supply of US seeds to India.
Biotechnology is introducing new opportunities and the Indian government has already begun approval procedures for some products. Genetically modified crops must be approved by an interagency committee under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, including representatives of several Ministries with the lead taken by the Department of Biotechnology of the Ministry of Science and Technology. However, there is a potential public relations problem if the issues are distorted in the press. At this stage, it's not clear what if any new restrictions will arise from this debate.
Netherlands (Report number NL7152): The Netherlands is a producer and exporter of a wide variety of planting seeds. Because the Dutch market itself is relatively small, the Dutch seed industry depends largely on exports. After France and the United States, the Netherlands is the largest supplier of seeds to the world market.
Grass seeds are the most important seed variety grown in the Netherlands. Estimates for the 1997 acreage are substantially up from 1996. A moderate increase is expected for 1998, in order to meet demand and rebuild stocks. This year, the growth is expected to be particularly apparent in acreage planted to turf seeds. In the fall of 1996 and the spring of 1997, demand for forage seeds was strong and prices were good, due to the fierce winter and dry summer which necessitated new sowing of fields. This resulted in an increase in the acreage of forage seeds in 1997. The current situation is such that disappointing demand for forage seed has caused prices to drop by roughly 10 percent compared to last year.
Data and Graphics:
Image: July-October U.S. Planting Seed Exports by Group
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Data: U.S. Planting Seed Export Highlights, July-October
U.S. Planting Seed Import Highlights, July-October