The Mexican maize seed industry has upgraded its portfolio of products to better address the needs of smallholder farmers. More than 50 local companies have seen sales increase by 70 percent in the last 5 years. In 2016 alone, these small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sold over 1.1 million bags of 100 maize hybrids.
Mexican seed companies have traditionally marketed obsolete maize hybrids and open pollinated varieties on a land area of about 1.25 million hectares, representing 42 percent of the seed market in Mexico. At the same time, large multinational seed companies dominated a market of 1.75 million hectares in the best rain-fed and irrigated regions of Mexico. Meanwhile, Mexican smallholder farmers have struggled to raise their maize yields.
Now, most Mexican seed companies offer high-yielding, stress-tolerant hybrids adapted to rain-fed conditions. These hybrids yield from two-to-four times the average yield of obsolete varieties in target areas. Three larger local companies are now challenging multinational companies’ share of the most valuable markets in the country, fostering competition that will eventually push seed prices down. Access to better seed in new areas could increase average maize yields on a scale that would lead Mexico to become self-sufficient in the production of its most important crop.
Today, local companies control 30 percent of the seed market in Mexico and their total sales of improved seed have increased by 70 percent, since first partnering with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in 2011.
Bags of hybrid seed marketed in Mexico.
“Improved maize seed is grown on 3 million hectares across Mexico, of the total of 8 million hectares sown to the crop,” said Arturo Silva, leader of the International Maize Improvement Consortium for Latin America. “As a result of public and private efforts, the market of improved seed will grow to cover 5.5 million hectares by 2020.”
These encouraging results are the product of a partnership with public research institutions and more than 50 local seed companies that annually test dozens of high-yielding, disease-resistant and climate resilient maize hybrids developed by breeders in the Sustainable Modernization of Agriculture (MasAgro) project, which is supported by Mexico’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA).
After five years of collaborative field trials and pre-commercial tests since 2011, 49 new white and yellow CIMMYT hybrids were released to the Mexican seed sector. These materials contributed to more than 500,000 of the 1.1 million bags of improved seed sold by Mexican companies in 2016.
These maize hybrids have been specifically adapted to the needs of smallholder farmers and are put to the test on hundreds of sites across Mexico. Seed companies help farmers by hosting training sessions on hybrid seed production and commercialization.
Farmers select ears of the Zapolote Chico landrace in Santa Rosa de Lima, Oaxaca.