Islamabad  -  An international report commissioned by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Netherlands government placed Pakistan-based seed company, Punjab Seed, Enterprise among the 24 leading seed companies in South and Southeast Asia.

Out of the 24 leading seed companies in Asia, 21 have a presence in India and Pakistan, but only two companies have a breeding station and production activities in Pakistan, revealed a recent report.

Only three companies were found to provide farmer training in Pakistan to help farmers to adopt new technologies and to adapt their agricultural practices to new realities, caused by climate change.

Due to less interest of international companies in local seed business activities in Pakistan, the national seed sector does not benefit from these kinds of investment, in contrast to other countries like India, Thailand or the Philippines, the report said.

Ido Verhagen, the executive director of the Access to Seeds Index, believes access to latest and modern seed varieties for local farmers resulted in better crop yield as compared to traditional seed varieties that farmers save and exchange among themselves and also helped reduce malnutrition.

“Increasing yields, tackling climate change challenges and reducing environmental impact of agriculture, it all starts with the seed farmers use,” said Verhagen. He said that it was encouraging to see that so many companies had a presence in Pakistan to sell seeds. However, it is surprising that so few companies of them invest in local seed business activities such as breeding and production or local training activities, he noted.

Verhagen further said that the study also identified 5 other Pakistani seed companies, but they did not meet the selection. One of them, Four Brothers Group, has its own breeding programme, while 3 have seed production activities. He said that Pakistan should investigate why majority of companies refrain from investing in Pakistan, however; he feared that being not a member of international bodies might be a reason. Pakistan is not a member of the international plant variety protection treaty (UPOV).

The report highlighted investments in seed production or breeding tend to be concentrated in a select number of countries, most notably India and Thailand. As a result, development of local seed industries in Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia run the risk of lagging further behind as few leading seed companies invest in these countries, it said.

According to United Nations report, about 350 million people are undernourished in South and Southeast Asia, a number them have barely changed in the past two years.

Around 30 percent of the children in the region are malnourished. Smallholders provide up to 80 percent of the food supply.

Helping the 170 million smallholder farmers of South and Southeast Asia to grow more and more nutritious food is the key to achieving food and nutrition security, the report said.

The report termed East-West Seed as leader of the industry with a business model built around smallholders, including breeding for their specific needs, selling seeds in small packages and providing training. Its client base is made up almost entirely of smallholders (98%), indicating that successful business models that work for both small-scale farmers and a company itself are possible, the report stated.

The top 10 of the index further includes 3 seed companies from India and 6 global seed companies from outside the region.

Besides, East-West Seed, Buyer is on number 2,  Syngenta on 3 while Advanta has been placed  on number 4 in the report.

The Access to Seeds Index is one of the first SDG benchmarks published by the World Benchmarking Alliance. It was launched last September during the UN General Assembly in New York.