General Trade Summary
U.S. planting seed exports during July 1997-April 1998 totaled 780,588 metric tons valued at $803.3 million, a decrease of 24 percent in volume but nearly unchanged in value over the same period in 1996/97. Imports for the period totaled 223,302 tons (about 15 percent above a year ago); value reached $367.9 million (20 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 found on the FAS homepage at www.fas.usda.gov.
Bulgaria (Report number BU8021): Bulgaria's total seed imports in 1998 are expected to reach nearly 3,000 metric tons. This is higher than the import quota of 2,132 tons, and is more than double the volume of imports in 1997, which totaled 1,282 tons. Much of the expected increase in seed imports this year is due to an improvement in the Bulgarian economy, increased farmer incomes, and higher domestic seed prices, which have made the higher-quality imported seeds more desirable. Factors which are likely to influence Bulgaria's seeds imports in the near term are the privatization of the vegetable processing industry, and a growing demand for vegetable seeds suitable for the production of vegetables for freezing. Currently, the leading planting seeds imported by Bulgaria are potato, corn, and feed grasses. Much of Bulgaria's seeds are imported from the European Union and the United States.
Chile (Report number CI8017): Chile's southern hemisphere growing season continues to attract multinational seed breeders to contract with domestic growers. Sixty percent of total production is exported, making Chile both a competitor and a consumer of U.S. seed. For example, in seed corn, Chile was a net exporter in MY 96/97, importing $7.8 million from the United States; exporting $41 million to the United States; and exporting another $12 million to other countries. Seed corn leads all other categories in acreage, in exports, and in imports. Chile is an open economy with export-oriented policies. Its well developed program of multiplication of foreign cultivars for re-export is know worldwide. The Ministry of Agriculture regulates and approves transgenics for the seed industry and has approved the feeding of transgenic varieties to livestock. Phytosanitary certificates are required on some seeds imported into Chile, with some requiring fumigants and fungicide treatments. Chile follows Foreign Agriculture Organization, European Union, and International Seed Trade Association regulations.
Turkey (Report number TU8018): Turkey imported $22 million and exported $7 million in seeds in CY1997. Local production is not expected to meet demand in the next three to five years, making Turkey a significant importer of seeds for planting. Corn and cotton seed are among those most needed. About 90 percent of Turkey's seed corn is imported from the United States. Major U.S. seed companies are established in Turkey to produce parent seeds mostly for domestic consumption. The Government of Turkey subsidizes seeds to support input costs to farmers. Agricultural infrastructure investment and agricultural bank subsidies are also helping to expand acreage and production in grains, cotton, and fodder. Crops receiving the most support are sunflower, soy, cotton, potatoes and alfalfa.
Import licenses are required from the Ministry of Agriculture. However, before seeds may be imported, they must be grown locally with Ministry approval on trial plots. U.S.-owned and joint venture seed companies are experiencing delays in obtaining import licenses for bio-genetically altered cotton and potato seed samples. The Ministry is currently studying whether it will continue to allow bio-genetically altered seeds into Turkey for testing. There are no direct subsidies on seed exports from Turkey.
Philippines (Report number RP8019): The Philippine domestic seed industry is mainly being inhibited by two factors: the inability to patent inventions and the use of "home-saved" seeds. New plant varieties are still not considered as patentable inventions, despite the new Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) code enacted in 1997. The absence of such a law will continue to be a disincentive to both private and government scientists to breed and release more varieties. The use of "home-saved" seeds--seeds from an earlier crop--contribute to low farm yield. According to an official of the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), only about 30 percent of the total area planted to rice uses certified seeds, while the remainder is planted with the home-saved seeds. For corn, private seed producers estimate that only about 20 percent of the total area planted uses hybrid seeds. There are no clear estimates for the use of home-saved seeds for vegetable production, because it varies widely.
The use of home-saved seeds in vegetable production is expected to decline in the short-term, as El Niņo has affected output. Seed production by local seed companies will also be down due to the harsh growing conditions. The expected decline in usage of both home-saved and certified seeds represents positive prospects for seed imports, primarily vegetable seeds.
Small farmers receive credit assistance for seeds, fertilizers, and other inputs. Also, Republic Act number 8435, which was signed into law December 1997, calls for a massive rural infrastructure development program.
For more information on U.S. Planting Seed Trade you may contact Mark Rasmussen at (202) 720-9497