Cultivar Market – Seeds and Seedlings
In the past two decades, Brazil has become a world leader in the market for agricultural products, and Brazilian agribusiness accounted for over 20% of the national GDP. The global and the Brazilian market for cultivars has undergone significant changes in the same period, which limited the business activity of trading seeds to a few private companies and caused a high concentration in the market, especially for major agricultural commodities (soybeans, maize, and cotton). Nowadays, in Brazil, this market involves large corporations and an annual volume of nearly US$ 370 billion, split into agricultural inputs (11.7%), agricultural production (29.6%), agroindustry (27.8%) and distribution (31.1%).
Brazilian legislation has also undergone changes, especially with the Cultivar Protection Law (9,456/97), which guaranteed rights to those who breed new varieties and thus made agricultural input companies have a glimpse of an alternative to keep their market niche, which is constantly threatened by the entrance of generic products. Seeds have become a vehicle for the other technologies offered by agrochemical companies, which aimed to have customers follow the agricultural systems and solutions they offered. The seed product has been incorporated into the industry and distributors' portfolio.
Before such changes, the 1980s and 1990s, saw a proven significant contribution from Embrapa towards the edification of a seed industry in the country, as it informed and disseminated cultivar genetics, agricultural best practices, and legitimate institutional and professional connections for the development of Brazilian agribusiness in many environments.
The concentration of such large companies in commodity trading in recent years impelled Embrapa to strategically redefine its role in the cultivar market, with the purpose of seeking higher corporate accountability for a corporation that offers technologies for the development of the country as a whole. Hence, Embrapa annually supplies the production sector with cultivars for all types of markets, including competitive, niche, and diversity markets.
The product that Embrapa trades the most, as well as the corporation's challenge in terms of cultivar trading, on top of the insertion in the market for seeds, seedlings, and other products and inputs, is innovation for Brazilian Agriculture, that is, the adoption of technologies for the entire production sector.
Home to an extensive genetic improvement program that is very valued in the seed market, Embrapa has participated in the market for plant genetics since 1975; through seeds and propagules, it has inserted cultivars developed by the corporation's breeding programs into the market. In order to have such cultivars, which are improved by research and adapted to different environments, be used by the production sector, Embrapa inserts them into the market by passing on basic material (basic seeds or propagules) to the corporation's legal partners.
Hence, Embrapa's performance in the asset market takes place with the great support and partnership of seed growers and industrialists who, from the inputs supplied by Embrapa, produce the seeds and seedlings that are inserted into the market. Through such public/private partnerships, Embrapa passes on more productive and healthier genetic material to the agricultural sector, aiming at the general development of the Brazilian agribusiness.
The basic seeds and propagules are offered to the production sector through Public Calls for Tenders, to which Embrapa Products and Market, the Embrapa special service unit responsible for Embrapa's operations in the cultivar market, gives broad publicity, aiming to reach all the segments of seed and seedling producers and look for parties interested in becoming Embrapa's partners in the cultivar market. Embrapa Products and Market is currently in charge of operating the corporation's business activities, especially with regard to the management of contracts to license such products and promote the sales of seeds and seedlings of several plant species. For that purpose, the Unit annually keeps about 1200 contracts with 350 licensed companies, which, alongside other farmers, commercialize more than 225 Embrapa cultivars, and meet demands from farmers and from markets of different sizes and formats.
Since 2013/2014, Embrapa Products and Market has been taking on new responsibilities and new challenges, in line with changes in the market for innovation in Brazil and pursuant to Embrapa's new guidelines for solutions for Brazilian agriculture. The Unit's main activities include establishing greater interaction with the market and supporting product stages of development, which requires greater involvement in the final stages of the breeding programs. For this purpose, it resorts to strategies and production, promotion, trade and licensing activities, with historical emphasis on the area of plant production.
Nowadays, Embrapa's research units conduct 64 genetic improvement programs aimed at plant species, involving food products, staple fibers, and those that are devoted to energy production as well as forest cover in Brazilian ecosystems. The plant species with which Embrapa participates in the seed and seedling market are as follows:
- Cereals: rice, wheat, triticale, rye, sorghum, and maize.
- Fruit: banana, açaí, apple, pear, papaya, nectarine/peach/plum, blackberry/blueberry, pineapple, mango, coconut, passion fruit, cupuaçu, bacuri/murici/camu-camu, cashew, strawberry, grape, citrus.
- Vegetables and spices: melon, watermelon, bell peppers/peppers, carrot, lettuce, pumpkin/squash, black pepper, onion, tomato.
- Legumes, oilseeds, and fibers: beans, cowpeas, sunflower, castor oil plant, cotton, soybean.
- Plants for industrial use: African palm oil, rubber tree, guarana, maté, sugarcane, castor oil plant, coffee.
- Forage crops: Brachiaria, Panicum, Stylosanthes, forage peanut, elephant grass, Southern forage grasses.
- Forest and palm trees: açaí, peach palm, pinus, eucalyptus, araucaria.
- Roots and tubers: potato and cassava.
- Medicinal, aromatic, and colouring plants: long pepper.
Embrapa's recent work in the area of new assets (tangible and intangible technology, processes, products, and services) opens up a range of opportunities for technologically-based businesses, with a focus on internal and external shared articulation, validation, valuation, and insertion of assets into the market. The development of assets concerning plant, animal, and microrganism genetics, and physical-chemical and mechanical assets of interest to Brazilian agribusiness can be subject to qualification, valuation and market insertion, and Embrapa Products and Market has the role of contributing with the characterization of such assets for the market and to managerial and scientifically-based business.