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People's Daily Online>>China Business

Problems in China's corn seed industry

By He Na (China Daily)

08:30, March 22, 2012

Han Zongqing, a farmer from Dongling village in Fate town, Shulan city, displays corn seeds he bought this year. Han is one of many farmers in Northeast China's Jilin province who have been thrown into a panic by the massive variety of corn seeds available on the market. (Ding Luyang / China Daily)

Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture show that China has more than 8,700 seed companies. Only about 200 have registered capital of more than 30 million yuan, and just 100 have the capability to undertake research.

Elsewhere, the situation is different. Although there are only around 100 seed companies in the US, their combined profit accounts for more than half of the industry's global total. A report released by the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology for Development shows that the top 10 domestic seed companies hold a combined global market share of just 0.8 percent. In 2010, the annual sales revenue of Monsanto, the multinational agricultural biotechnology company, exceeded that of China's total seed industry.

"Before, all the farmers bought their seeds from one Stated-owned company. However, after the seed law came into effect in December 2000, China's market was opened to the outside world, and many foreign varieties flooded in, gradually exerting a stranglehold on the market," said Zhang Xue, director of the Yushu Agriculture Bureau.

"In 2005, Pioneer 335 was the first foreign variety to enter China. It had obvious advantages in terms of its quick ripening time, the fact that it can be planted closer than other varieties, and provides higher yields than domestic seeds," he said.

The area of Jilin sown with Pioneer 335 was about 140,000 hectares in 2008. By 2010, that figure had soared to 1.4 million hectares, accounting for more than 40 percent of the province's total corn fields.

Meanwhile, 2011 saw a sharp decline in the market share for domestic seeds. Zhengdan 958, a well-known local brand that accounted for 50 percent of the Jilin market, saw its share shrink to 10 percent.

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