Press trip to Paris – Toulouse: France, the leader in maize seed production. The role of FNPSMS federation

In the beginning is … the seed. On this claim is based the role of the French National Federation of Seed Maize and Seed Sorghum Production (FNPSMS), which in recent decades has focused -through research- to the optimization of its hybrids. The main aim of FNPSMS is to strengthen its member companies to increase their sales and to serve the European farmers who are always seeking for seed that guarantee the best possible production (qualitatively and quantitatively). These efforts have succeeded as France today is the Europe’s leading seed producer country in the world and holds the 1st place for maize seed exports. Agrotypos participated in a journalistic mission in France (Paris and Toulouse, September 28-30) in the frame of FNPSMS’s informative presentation about the breeding, production and marketing of maize hybrid seed. According to what was mentioned, the seed production is essentially the first link in the agricultural chain and the starting point in the food chain, moreover the seed is the basis and has to satisfy the requirements of farmers and consumers (since the final products targeting them). The objective of the efforts made by FNPSMS is the produced maize hybrid seeds to have increased productivity, reduced inputs (of pesticides and chemical fertilizers) and be more environmentally friendly.

FNPSMS at a glance

The FNPSMS was founded in 1950 and is a federation of seed growers and seed companies which “join their forces” in the interests of efficient control of production, technical and economic development and for the promotion of top performance maize seed (and sorghum). In other words, the Federation connects seed companies engaged in research and seed growers in their own farmers’ associations. Today, the members of FNPSMS reached 50 companies, of which 25 are large seed producing companies (all members of the French union of seed companies, UFS). The remaining 25 members are associations representing seed growers. It is mentioned that 9 of the 25 seed companies are plant breeders who develop new varieties that they then produce themselves or by sub-contracting to other seed producing companies.

The activities of FNPSMS are the following:

  • Economic expertise & studies
  • Analyses for certification
  • Monitoring production
  • Contract agreements on prices
  • Research & Development (technical action on seed)
  • Promotion of grain and silage maize
  • Promotion of high-tech maize seed and sorghum seed on the international market

The structure of maize seed production

What is the structure of seed production of maize and sorghum in France and what is the FNPSMS position? The “head” is the Ministry of Agriculture, followed by the official Service for Seed Control and certification (SOC). The FNPSMS, following the government agencies, is a federation of seed companies and seed growers, as mentioned above. The FNPSMS has an “inter-branch Laboratory” which was founded by professional seed and grain organizations. This is a reference laboratory for the maize sector and a center providing commercial services. The offered services include analyses for certification and registration of varieties.

A Cooperative seed factory

Our visit in France in addition to the informative presentation of FNPSMS, included a tour of the Syngenta’s research facilities (member of FNPSMS) and a browse on maize fields and the «Arterris» Cooperative’s seed factory in Alzonne. The factory has two plants processing seed maize, a network of 300 maize seed producers who cultivate a total of 6,000 hectares. It also produces basic seed for two international plant breeders.

Seed sector throughout France

As aforementioned, France is the first European seed producer and the second larger exporter in the world after the Netherlands (in the 3rd place is Germany). France is the world’s leading maize seed exporter, in particular the 80% of the total country’s export is maize seeds (41% of the exports), seeds of vegetables & ornamentals and oilseeds. The French seed sector in total produces 5,000 varieties from 140 different species on 378,000 hectares, from 19,080 seed producers. There are 182 factories of the seed sector (in the 70% of French departments) with 4,000 employees, while production reaches 1,2 million tonnes of seeds. All over France the seed industry consists of 266 companies with 15,000 employees and the turnover in 2014 amounted to 3.2 billion euros. Over the last 8 years the industry recorded a constantly improving performance with a total increase in turnover (turnover in 2006/2007 was 1.9 billion euros, while in 2014 the turnover reached, as mentioned before, the 3.2 billion euros). The key factor for the success of the seed industry in France has to do with the “innovation”. It is characteristic that annually 600 new varieties are included in the French Official Catalogue of Varieties. More than 6,500 varieties are listed in the French Official Catalogue (4,000 farm species and 2,500 garden species).

The «Seed Technical Action Programme 2015»

Finally, it is noted that every year the FNPSMS, working in partnership with the French Interprofessional Seed (GNIS – French National Inter – branch Seed Grouping) determines and conducts an ambitious technical programme involving the professional players in the seed sector, the maize seed producers and the seed companies. The programme most of which is carried out by Arvalis-Plant Institute is designed to improve the productivity of French maize seed (sorghum) and therefore its competitiveness. The programme covers five different issues:

  • Competitiveness – Physiology,
  • Disease Protection
  • Pest Control
  • Agricultural Machinery
  • Environment: Weed Control and
  • Environment: Fertilizers – Irrigation.

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