Axel Breuer: Please explain Hazera and the current situation in the seeds market.
Rami Dar: As Hazera, we are part of the vegetable division of the Limagrain Group. Today Hazera is basically an Israeli-Dutch company. In 2008 Hazera and parts of the Dutch company Nickerson-Zwaan were merged. The integration is well underway but not complete. Both countries, Israel and Holland are well-recognized as research centers for agriculture in general and seeds in particular. We combined the best assets of the Israeli and Dutch activities to bring the business forward. We have three main categories: The fruited crops like Tomato, Pepper, Cucumber, Melon and Watermelon. We are also strong in bulbs; onions and radish and the third category are cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts in the brassica division. In some other markets we are also strong in crops that we are not breeding but distributing.
Axel Breuer: The global seed industry seems to be in a constant drive for consolidation. Growers and Consumers are concerned about the developments. How does that affect the vegetable seed industry?
Rami Dar: The way I see it is that consolidation is not a major trend for the vegetable seed industry. It is taking place in the world of field crops and chemicals, but the vegetable side of companies like Monsanto and Syngenta is the rather neglected part of the groups. I think the considerations about the consolidation are driven by the chemical businesses and the field crops. My view is that the vegetable divisions of the merging companies Monsanto and Syngenta are not benefitting in the process. And as competitors in this field we are not really worried. We have seen already that the integration of Seminis and De Ruiter has not brought many positive effects. Many companies like us are in fact taking benefit from this process.
I am convinced that the supply side of field crop seeds and chemical inputs will remain separated from the vegetable business. I think the more important developments right now come from outside challenges like overcoming regulations and climate change.
Axel Breuer: There are concerns that seed companies are trying to create an ‘addiction’ to a cocktail with seeds and chemicals which makes the grower dependent on one product range – from a single supplier.
Rami Dar: I don’t see any benefit in a company that has chemicals to push growers to buy vegetable seeds because they have bundled the package with seeds and chemicals. Growers will always look for the best genetics and bundling with chemicals will not change this. Growers are the most important part of our activity. Of course there are other stakeholders in the distribution chain, but growers are the most important. . At the end of the day you need a grower who is willing to take a variety, to grow it and to rely on the seed supplier. He needs to trust the breeding company. We will never change our conviction to be close to the grower and we try to understand his needs. We want to develop the material that he really needs and to help him to get the best results.
We have dedicated teams for the development of vegetable varieties at Limagrain and Hazera and I think this is the right approach. As the market is very fragmented Limagrain decided not to merge all the activities into one big unit, but to keep the three business units which will give us the ability to be closer to the grower,act faster and be more flexible. With this strategy and this focus I think we have a great future. In the group we try to keep a lot of freedom to the business units to approach their markets with their philosophy and culture. At the same time we have joint projects to provide maximum efficiency for technology development.
Axel Breuer: What challenges do you consider as the most important ones?
Rami Dar: We have to work to ensure the ability to use new breeding technologies. The ability to pass seeds from country to country. Due to regulations it is now more difficult to move seeds from country to country. We have a specific concern in China. For some years many in the industry felt that China would open the doors to western seed companies and now it seems like it is going in the opposite direction. There are more regulatory difficulties for western companies to operate in China. We see this trend in other markets as well where the administrations try to give preference to local companies. Bureacratic hurdles are mounting as the regulatory bodies demand a full documentation of traceability. Another challenge is that we have more phytosanitary crises now – new viruses and bacterial infects which are causing threats for the growers and the breeding companies. And the climate situation with more severe weather conditions which is really affecting the performance of the crop and a real challenge for the breeders and growers.
Axel Breuer: How can new breeding technologies change the industry?
Rami Dar: There is a list of maybe five new technologies that are in discussion, some rather obviously beneficial and can more easily be accepted to some that are stirring more debates. New technologies allow to be more accurate and faster – you might be able to add genetic traits more accurately and for some changes we can enter the market after one year instead of four to five years.
The development can be faster and cheaper as well.
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