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“TURKISH SEED COMPANIES CAN TURN NEIGHBOURS’ LIMITED R&D INVESTMENTS INTO OPPORTUNITIES”

Every country has to increase its yield per unit area due to its increasing population, increasing annual calorie requirement per capita, shrinking planting areas and global warming.

Factors such as seed, fertilizer, water and agrochemicals are critical in increasing yield in crop production. Of these, seed comes first in terms of relative impact. The annual value of seed trade in the world is approximately $60 billion. Within the framework of free trade practices, every country can buy and sell seeds, following country regulations and phytosanitary rules.

Here, we should differentiate between variety and seed. When you sell seeds, its second and subsequent planting is of no concern to the seller. But when the variety is sold, the breeding right of the seed from the first, second and subsequent plantings is paid to the owner of the variety.
According to the latest report from an international research agency (IFPRI) on food and agriculture, the Middle East and North African Countries have to increase their agricultural research investments to feed their citizens.

The report states: “For decades, many governments in this region neglected to invest in agricultural R&D until the issue became a priority following sharp food price hikes in 2008 in the region. Since then, spending has increased in some countries.

Nonetheless, only two of 11 countries -Jordan and Oman- included in the research currently invest more than 1 percent of agricultural output in agricultural research and development, as recommended by the UN”.

Quality plant researchers from countries such as Lebanon, Egypt Jordan, who are expected to serve at home country, have also been transferred to the Gulf countries. Turkey has made some progress on this issue.”

According to 2018 figures, Turkey exported:

• Four wheat varieties to Sudan, Syria, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Turkmenistan
• Four cotton varieties to Tajikistan, Sudan, Benin and Syria
• One sunflower variety to Romania, Russia and France
• Three chickpea varieties to Syria, Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Ukraine, Russia and Bulgaria
• Three paddy (rice) varieties to Macedonia, two to Spain, three to Ukraine, two to Russia.

Turkey is at the forefront of plant breeding and seed production when compared to its neighbors. The timely implementation of seed laws played a major role in establishing this position. Also, in Turkey, in particular the adoption of the breeder’s rights and the share of private sector seed companies having completed their development should not be overlooked.

Despite all these developments, there is a gene-generator problem in Turkish variety improvement system. As there is no gene selling institution in the country, universities are not adequately informed about this. It is not known whether a single gene can be registered and protected. For example, the researcher, who identifies a genotype resistant to any plant disease, can market it to a company with research facilities. Unfortunately, universities are unable to do their part in terms of plant breeding.

The common view of the seed stakeholders is a bit more progressive (SEED SECTOR POLICY DOCUMENT 2018-2022 – TAGEM 2019):

• “We want to impede the entry of numerous varieties into Turkey. Because the domestic companies do not have their market share due to small number of registered varieties existing in Turkey. So, they want to import new foreign varieties from abroad in order to have their own varieties (by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for breeders’ rights (royalty)”

• The model we need is the cooperation of universities, private sector and public research institutes like western countries. Indeed, if all three units can be under one umbrella, their performance will be 5-10 times more.

Therefore, Article 28 of the Final Declaration of the Agricultural Council (3. Tarım Şurası) states: “In order to use resources more effectively in R&D and innovation, a new institutional infrastructure, including public, private sector and universities, will be established.”

Realization of this decision and establishment of an: «AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF TURKEY» will be the turning point of Turkish seed business.

Professor Dr. Nazimi Açıkgöz

Source: TÜRKTED, Turkish Seed Industry Association

Seed News, April – June 2020

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About İsmail Uğural

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