Asia-Pacific Seed Industry News 2020

This page features a compilation and selection of global seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on news and events that impact or affect locales and countries in the APSA region (Asia-Pacific), including intra- and inter-regional affairs, trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first. 

May 2020

APSA, CNSTA unite seed industry voice in  webinar on Covid19 Impacts

APSA and the China National Seed Trade Association (CNSTA) successfully organized a three-session, two-day online seminar (May 26 and 27), which featured dozens of seed industry experts and executives representing national and regional seed associations, as well as leading seed enterprises. The aim of the webinar was not only to highlight the “Impacts of COVID-19 on the Seed Trade” but to lay out the stakes for the path and trends moving forward. Seed industry speakers and panelists represented 13 countries inside and outside the Asia-Pacific region, including China, India, Pakistan, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Chile and the USA. All in the webinar was joined by more than 50,000 participants from across the world, who tuned in via Zoom, Youtube, Wechat and Tencent broadcasting platforms. Making mass broadcasting possible in mainland China — where a majority of participants joined from — was technical support from Southern Rural News Agriculture Wealth. A summary report of the webinar is being prepared and will be shared via APSA website and included ash part of comprehensive coverage of COVID19 impats in the upcoming Q2 of Asian Seed Magazine. Meanwhile, videos and all presentations from the three sessions can be accessed here

International Seed Federation to hold Virtual Congress 8 – 10 June

ISF Secretary General Michael Keller says, “The International Seed Federation, as the voice of the private seed sector, is not staying silent,” despite postponement of the ISF’s World Seed Congress 2020 in South Africa: to fill the gap, his organization invites all to the ISF’s interactive, no-cost Virtual Congress, streaming live 8 – 10 June and accessible through 17 June. Register free via this link

Seed movement under COVID-19: ISF engages region reps

ISF has engaged leaders from regional and national seed associations in a series of video Q&As to get insights on how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted the industry. Special thanks to: AFSTA, APSA, Euroseeds, SAA, SANSOR, Tunisian Seed Association, China Seed Association, Australian Seed Federation, Plantum, ANOVE, ASTA and ANPROS. The interviews can be viewed via the following links:

ISTA holds first ever ISTA Rules Meeting

The International Seed Testing Association’s 2020 Rules Session meeting was held in the virtual format for the first time. Held on May 19, the meeting, which is part of the process of updating ISTA Rules provided a glance over the 2021 edition changes proposed by ISTA members. The two-hour meeting can be watched in its entirety on Youtube via this link. 

EPSA Exec. Director interviewed by Germination

APSA Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey (May) was featured in an interview with Canada-based Germination magazine, in which she shared her ideas, thoughts and experiences about the direction and priorities of the Asia-Pacific seed industry, especially with regards to Intellectual Property Rights. Read the full interview here.

Global Cotton Industry Freefalls with Reduced Asian Demand

Seed World Magazine published an article 12 May on plummeting cotton demand arising from COVID-19, with severe effect on the global cotton supply chain: “Unexpected reduction in cotton mill use data is observed across all of the major cotton spinning countries, including

China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam.” Full article here

Amphan Ravages Eastern India and Bangladesh

The worst cyclone in 100 years swept through India and Bangladesh 20th May killing at least 102 people. Damage to built-up areas and farms was estimated at US$13 billion in India; US$130 million in Bangladesh. The U.N. children’s fund (UNICEF) said the storm and its after-effects put 19 million children at risk. In Kolkata, home to nearly 15 million people, Cyclone Amphan tore roofs off buildings, smashed windows, pulled down trees and pylons and overturned cars. 2.4 million people were evacuated before Amphan made landfall from

Bangladesh’s low-lying coastal district of Bhola, and 650,000 from the states of Odisha and West Bengal in Eastern India. In Bangladesh, the threat to standing crops and fertile land led officials to help farmers move produce and hundreds of thousands of animals to higher ground. Luckily, the rice harvest was mostly complete. In India’s West Bengal, two districts in the Ganges delta were hit hard, with homes and crops destroyed, communications snapped, power cut and bridges unusable. The West Bengal coastal villages of Dhinkia, Nuagaon, Gadakujanga, Ambiki, Gadaharishpur and Padmapur in Jagatsinghpur District’s Erasama block were the worst hit. Harvested crops were damaged in storage by the downpours, along with 1,500 betel vines. 25,000 people were evacuated: 16,840 to 299 cyclone shelters; 5,000 shifted to private buildings and educational institutions on their own. The cyclone affected more than 13 million people and damaged over 1.5 million houses.

Voracious locust swarms prey on Pakistan, India and Iran

A devastating pest is rapidly eating its way through farmland in West and South Asia, and the damage mounting. As if the threat of Fall Armyworm weren’t worrying enough, now agriculture officers in Pakistan, India and Iran are rallying to fight swarms of hungry, migratory locusts. Believed to have originated in Africa and the Middle East, the pests since last year have caused sleepless nights for farmers in the three countries, and the situation appears to have escalated in April and May as farmers harvest spring crops, and prepare to sow for the coming season. A comprehensive report will be featured in Asian Seed Magazine Q2, out in June. 

SA’s Klein Karoo ISTA Accredited

ISTA, via LinkedIn, on May 22 announced accreditation of APSA-member Klein Karoo Seed Quality Service Laboratory in Oudtshoorn, South Africa. The certificate is valid till 29 January, 2023 and covers sampling, purity, germination, and weight tests for cereals, small legumes, pulses, vegetables and other agricultural crops.

April 2020

APSA – FAO Seed Legislation Study Published

The APSA – FAO study “Status of Seed Legislation and Policies in the Asia-Pacific Region” reviewing seed legislation in the Asia-Pacific and offering recommendations for future development is now available as an eBook for several platforms. Download it from

ISF Response to Covid-19 Crisis

The ISF has issued a number of responses over the last month outlining the organization’s position on matters related to seed and the world virus shutdown, including the “ISF Response to the Call to Action by the Food and Land Use Coalition”, “Contribution by FSII members towards COVID19 relief measures”, the “Joint letter from ISTA and ISF on the extension of accreditation certificates for seed health testing laboratories”, and “Safeguarding the food chain and International Seed Movement under the COVID-19 Crisis”. More details on ISF website

World Economic Forum Says Covid-19 Shutdown Could Worsen Hunger Crisis

The WEF notes that Covid-19 measures closing schools means many children miss their only hot meal of the day; that quarantine regulations disrupt supply chains; and that the crisis could plunge half a billion people into poverty while world trade reduces by up to a third. Meanwhile, quarantine regulations and partial port closures cause slowdowns in the shipping industry and border restrictions interdict trucking. 

World Food Program Director Warns of ‘Biblical’ Famine

The United Nations World Food Program Director David Beasley warned the UN Security Council of “a hunger pandemic” owing to the Covid-19 crisis, with “multiple famines of biblical proportions” coming soon. “We could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries,” he said, adding “more people could die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.” 

FAO Recommendations for Food Industry Workers

In “COVID-19 and the Risk to Food Supply Chains: How to Respond?”, the FAO advises food industry employers on measures to consider in order to keep the supply chain alive: keep all workers healthy and safe; maintain movement of food along the food chain; and have Food Safety Management Systems (FSMS) based on the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) principles in place. Read the full document here.

Advanta Seeds Covid-19 Crisis Video

Advanta Seeds has released a video on Twitter, with the accompanying tweet: “#Farmers worldwide are feeling the effects of #Covid19. This pandemic only reinforces our commitment…” which is linked and updated on APSA’s Covid-19 Resources page

Channel News Asia Commentary by Dr May and CLA Director Dr Siang Hee Tan

APSA Executive Director Dr Kanokwan Chodchoey and CropLife Asia Executive Director Dr Siang Hee Tan wrote in Channel News Asia recently about challenges arising from the Covid-19 crisis. Their recommendations: ASEAN economic ministers must ensure food security endangered by the economic shutdown via cross-ministerial coordination while acting on farmers’ feedback. Read the full article here.

CLA Webinar with APO on Supply Chain Effects

In the latest Asian Productivity Organization’s Productivity Talk Webinar (Thursday, 23 April 2020), CLA Executive Director Dr Siang Hee Tan discusses COVID-19 and the agriculture industry, spotlighting the crisis-spawned labor shortages, supply, environmental and pest pressures to be overcome. See the webinar stream here.

Shipping Down 11%, Fruit Rots in Myanmar and Kenya, Thai Bodybuilders Sell Durian and Malaysian Fruit Demand Skyrockets

Global shipping is off 11% (among the majors up to 17%) for the first half of 2020, while container shipping availability disappears — both attributed to the Covid-19 crisis by maritime intelligence company eeSea. Meanwhile, Kenyan banana farmers let thousands of ha rot after markets and hotels closed in Mombasa; in Myanmar, fruit traders can’t get their product across the border to China in time, owing to Covid-19 entry restrictions; and in Thailand out-of-work bodybuilders flex their muscles selling durians, while demand for fruits high in Vitamin C skyrockets in Malaysia as a hedge against the virus. Read the full reports on Fresh Plaza.

March 2020

ISF Calls for information on seed supply impacts

The International Seed Federation will be partnering with other international organizations who represent various agricultural input sectors in an effort to keep agriculture high on the agenda of policy makers even in these difficult times; to reiterate that there is currently no evidence that food is a likely route of transmission of the virus.  See more on ISF statement on March 23 for seed supply information gathering

IPCC Sec Gen issues statement on coronavirus, IYPH

“Obviously, this situation has altered the characteristics of the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) in 2020, but if anything, it raises even more the need to ensure that plants are protected from the ravages of plant pests. Ensuring a supply of fresh and wholesome food is more important than ever. With the challenges of limited travel, access to a safe and stable supply of food is compromised.” Secretary-General of the International Plant Protection Commision, Jingyuan Xia said

EU to fund biosecurity project in SE Asia

The European Union launched a €3.5 million regional project to support increased biosecurity in Southeast Asia. The project will help governments to better respond to highly communicable diseases or global biological events, such as pandemics, according to an EU press release. 

Seed companies confirm commitments

  • Chia Tai Group Statement (link)
  • East-West Seed: Statement from Founder, Simon N. Groot (link); Statement from Management Board (link) & Comprehensive statement of measures (pdf)
  • HM.Clause (statement textHM Clause statement)
  • Bayer Crop Sciences: Coronavirus news feed updates (link)
  • BASF: Nutrition and Health business coronavirus  updates (link)
  • Syngenta: Actions on Covid-19 notice (link)

APSA IPR& Biodiversity report on seed legislation published

The report has now been published on the FAO website here.

February 2020

FAO engages Asian agri-stakeholders during DG visits to Pakistan, Thailand and Laos

Dr. Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in February made his first visit to several countries in South and Southeast Asia since beginning his term in August 2019. 

Last year, Dr. Qu became the first Chinese, and second Asian DG of the FAO, which was covered in Asian Seed Volume 25, Q3 issue (see page 13 here)

His visit to the three Asian countries created engagement opportunities for various agriculture stakeholders, including APSA’s Executive Director, Dr. Kanokwan Chodchoey, who on 17 February joined an informal consultation with FAO representatives and various reps from more than a dozen private sector, academia and civil society organizations in Thailand. 

Dr Qu (second right) during the stakeholders consultation in Bangkok. Photo: Asian Seed

Participants discussed ways, ideas and channels to strengthen cooperation in working towards the mandates of the UN’s FAO, especially with respect to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

During the consultation, APSA’s Dr. Chodchoey briefed Dr. Qu, FAO reps and other participants on priorities and activities of APSA members and the greater Asia-Pacific seed industry, including those related to Intellectual Property Rights,  Plant Variety Protection, the Systems Approach, Phytosanitary Measures and promoting the UN’s International Year of Plant Health. 

In wrapping up the meeting, Dr. Qu stated,  “These partnerships are an opportunity to work together in a new way. Working together with you, through our FAO Hand in Hand initiative – an FAO matchmaking initiative – is in all our interests, and most importantly it will help lead us to defeating hunger and poverty by the 2030 deadline.”

During his visit to Thailand, Dr. Qu also met with the Thai Prime Minister, H.E. Prayuth Chan-O-Cha. The FAO DG thanked the Prime Minister and people of Thailand for their long standing support for FAO’s work and, in particular, for hosting the decades-old FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in the capital Bangkok.

Also in Thailand, Dr. Qu also visited a “”smart tomato farm” in Suphanburi province, which was described as a pilot project of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives that employs Precision Agriculture (PA) techniques to grow high yielding tomato crops efficiently and effectively.

Prior to coming to Thailand, Dr. Qu visited Pakistan, where he met with President, H.E. Arif Alv to discuss ways to promote agricultural modernization and rural development with the aim of transforming the country’s agri-food systems and accelerating progress towards the SDGs.

Dr. Qu also visited Laos, where he met with Lao PDR  Prime Minister, H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith. According to FAO’s DG news update, the two discussed strategies for sustainable development, and in particular ambitions to enable the landlocked country to graduate from its “Least Developed Country” status by 2024. 

APAARI publishes gene-editing consultation recommendations 

The Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) has published Proceedings and Recommendations of Expert Consultation on Gene Editing and its Regulation” following the consultation, which was held 10-11 October at the International Crops Research Institute (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India. The consultation was attended by APSA Execcutive Director, and covered in Asian Seed magazine, the report of which can be found via this link. (See page 15) 

The proceedings and recommendations publication can be downloaded from APAARI’s website via this link

FAO rallies experts, mobilizes resources to address locust infestation 

Attention all seasoned entomologists, especially desert locust experts: The  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is recruiting international consultants to work for an 11-month period with a “Locusts and Transboundary Plant Pests and Diseases” team, in collaboration with its Resilience Team, to address the spread of the desert locust, which has been causing cropping havoc in various countries in East Africa as well as Central and South Asia. Full job description here.  

In related news reported by reports that the FAO is already offering been coordinating support for several Asian countries affected by the locust infestation, including Pakistan, India, Iran and Afghanistan.  

Standing crops were reported to be badly damaged in Pakistan’s Lakki Marwat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, according to this report.

The Nation Pakistan also reports that China will offer support to its ally in South Asia by setting up an “emergency project to help Pakistan prepare pesticide and spraying equipment.” 

Record cold, snow in Kuwait Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran 

Thousands of dinars in damage was inflicted in February for farmers whose crops were destroyed by sub-zero temperatures in Abdali and Wafra of Kuwait. The crop losses affected exposed potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and pepper, reports Al-Anba daily.

Likewise, harsh and record cold and snow during the month has caused havoc for farmers and locals in several countries across the region. 

Record low temperatures ranging between minus 20 to minus 40 degrees Celsius have been reported along with a number of snow and cold-weather related deaths and incidents reported in Turkey — in Göle, Aşkale, Kars and Ardaha. 

Fresh Plaza reports that more than 70% of horticulture companies in the Adana region — where some 30,000 hectares are used to cultivate citrus crops — have suffered heavy damages due to minus 15 degree temperatures early in February.

Likewise, fields in Northwest Syria, around the town of al-Malikiyah (Derik) near the Turkish border, were photographed to be blanketed in snow that would have certainly frozen any exposed crops.

In northwest Iran, snow totals of as much as six meters were responsible for cutting off water and electricity to many regions, especially Qarah Bolagh district. The “first snow in a century” was also reported in southern Iraq. 

To better understand the scientific and geological implications of such cold-weather”Climate Change” trends, and implications for the seed industry, see also Asian Seed comprehensive report conducted on the subject in 2017. 

December 2019 & January 2020

Welcome to 2020: the International Year of Plant Health #IYPH2020

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as much as 40% of global food crop production is lost every year due to plant pests and diseases. To raise awareness about this while highlighting the significance of plant health in global food security, the FAO has declared 2020 the International Year of Plant Health. The official launch event of IYPH 2020 was held December 2 2019 at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. Inaugurating the event, FAO Director-General, Mr Qu Dongyu said “Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth and are the single most important pillar of human nutrition. But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted … As we launch this international year, plant health is increasingly under threat. Read more on the website of the International Plant Protection Commission. Also, Asian Seed Magazine Quarter 1, 2020 issue will feature an article with more news about #IYPH2020, including activities and initiatives by NPPOs and governments in the APSA region. 

7th ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names Released

The Nomenclature Committee of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) has announced the 7th and latest edition of ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names, which is available on the ISTA website here.  The previous six editions were completed and published in 1966, 1983, 1988, 2001, 2007, and 2013. Individual names on the List are to be stabilized for a period of at least six years. The latest edition includes many changes or adjustments in nomenclature for the plants, which have mostly resulted from recent advancements in taxonomic classification or from the nomenclatural actions of an International Botanical Congress, the latter reflected in the 2018 International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Shenzhen Code) (ICN) adopted by the 2017 Shenzhen Congress (N. J. Turland et al., Regnum Vegetabile 159, Koeltz Botanical Books, 2018). Proposed changes to the List were evaluated individually by Nomenclature Committee members and voted upon. From these results, a document containing the “Proposed Changes to the ISTA List of Stabilized Plant Names” approved by Committee vote was submitted to and approved by the 32nd ISTA Congress in Hyderabad, India, in 2019. At the Congress, ISTA members recommended that codes used by the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) be added to the List. The current list includes UPOV codes and links to their GENIE database. 

WBA names 2,000 ‘most influential companies’ for attaining SDGs

The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) has published a list of 2,000 “most influential companies”, which the organization says is  criticial to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The SDG2000 list identifies the 2,000 most influential companies in various sectors, and based in 74 countries around the world, who together represent $43 trillion in revenue. Represented on the list are 350 “Food and Agriculture” companies, including several prominent multinational conglomerates with holdings and investment in the Asia-Pacific seed industry. Among them are Bayer (Monsanto), BASF (Nunhems), Charoen Pokphand (Chiatai), Corteva (DowDupont & Pioneer), China National Chemical Corporation (ChinaChem & Syngenta), Limagrain (HM.Clause, Vilmorin-Mikado and UPL (Advanta /Pacific Seeds), among others. 

World Food & Agriculture in Numbers

According to an estimate by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) agriculture in 2017 used an estimated 37 percent of global land area; more than half of that was in Asia. This estimate, and related insights and statistics — related to population, cropping, productivity, supply, demand, hunger, malnutrition and sustainability — are covered in the FAO’s 2019 World Food and Agriculture Statistical Pocketbook, a 242-page digital publication (download here), which includes statistical profiles of all the world’s regions and countries, comparing vital data from 1997, 2007 and 2017. 

First phase of US-China trade deal signed

Trade officials from the world’s two largest economies in January signed what has been dubbed by many observers as a historical “first-phase” deal, easing tensions in the so-called “trade war” between the two superpowers. China has pledged to buy American ag goods as US cut tariffs on some Chinese goods. According to one report, China agreed to boost purchases of US goods and services by $200 billion over the next two years, including “$77.7 billion for manufactured goods and $32 billion for agricultural products.” In exchange, the US agreed to “halve 15 percent tariffs on $120 billion of Chinese imports, but leave 25 percent tariffs on an additional $250 billion of imports in place.” The report speculates that the deal could enable US agricultural exports to China to increase by as much as 50%, and thus provide “economic relief to farmers who have lost business … as a result of the trade war.” Indeed, US agricultural exports to China plummeted, estimated by about $21 billion, after trade relations deteriorated in 2018. Prior to that, “China was once the largest market for US agricultural products.” Now, the US is reportedly sitting on a “record number of soybeans in storage”, as China started purchasing more soybeans from Brazil after trade relations have broke down, according to CNN

Locust swarms still threatening Pakistani and Indian crops

Following last year’s costly infestation of locusts that have devastated standing crops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the pest seemed to had been contained in the latter two countries thanks to pest management and pesticide spraying protocal; however, reports in early 2020 suggest that a new wave of the pest is still attacking crops in South Asia. According to ARY News, the pest has “now landed in Sahiwal and surrounding areas … [and has] attacked standing crops of wheat, mustard and potatoes on hundreds of acres farmlands in Kumair, Harappa, Bangla, Cheechawatani and other areas of the region.”  Locusts, in addition to mealybugs, were to blame for declining horticulture productivity in Sindh. Likewise the pest was reported to have resurfaced in Gujarat’s  Banaskantha district, attacking crops there, invading parts of villages like Mavsar, Kundaliya and Radhanesda close to the border adjoining Pakistan.