By: Dr. Paulo Campante
According to the first survey for the 2017/2018 crop, conducted by the National Supply Company – CONAB, an estimated grain production for the crop should be around 228 million tons with a planted area of 62.02 million hectares. Soybean and maize remain as the main crops produced in the country. Both products correspond to almost 89% of what is produced. Soybeans can reach a production up to 108 million tons, while corn production can reach up to 93.5 million tons, between the first and second harvests. Is also noted a significant increase in the production of cotton, beans, sunflower and castor beans.
In just over 20 years, the Brazilian grain crops has grown up from 76 to more than 200 million tons, while the increment of the area was approximately 40%. Studies show that if the productivity levels were kept as few years ago would be necessary to incorporate an additional 70 million hectares, to harvest the current crop. Such improvements, which impress by the grandeur, were sustained by the development of a strong seed production system, that have heavily invested over the years, in order that the producers had in their hands more productive cultivars, better adapted to the new environmental conditions and resistant to pests and diseases.
The result through years of investment in research, the seed stands out today as the main vehicle of technology and innovation in the agricultural sector, being directly responsible for significant productivity rates experienced in almost all the Brazilian territory. Nowadays, in Brazil, it is common to find productivity averages above 12,000 kg / ha, for the corn crop, and more than 3,500 kg / ha in the soybean crop.
The country has got an established seed industry for over three decades and it has one of the largest domestic markets in the world behind only the United States and China, besides having on one of the biggest productive parks in the world. The country’s own continental characteristic favors the production of high quality seeds, in different edafoclimatic conditions, besides allowing 3 to 4 cycles per year in some species, which may represent a good competitive advantage for seed production and in the conduct of generation advancement projects in the case of genetical enhancement programs.
Today the Brazilian domestic market is approximately the amount of US $ 4 billion, with emphasis on large crops accounting for 83% of the market, forages with 11% and vegetables 6%. The Brazilian seed production went from from 1.6 million tons in the 2001/02 crop to almost 4 million tons of seeds in the 2015/16 crop, being that the production of soybeans, corn, wheat, rice, cotton, beans and sorghum remains the main seed markets in the country.
In 2016, the vegetables seed sector reached a value of US $ 245 million, with special emphasis on the production of tomato, onion, carrot, watermelon, lettuce, melon, pepper, cucumber, sweet corn and cauliflower seeds, being the Brazil´s southeastern region responsible for about 45% of this market. However, other regions still have great potential for growth, via mainly, expansion of cultivation and replacement of open pollinated cultivars by Hybrid F1.
Another highlight to be observed is the tropical forage sector, which registered a growth of 122%, going from 27 thousand tons of seeds in 2010 to 144 thousand tons in 2016, reaching revenues of approximately US $ 600 million driven mainly by the meat market growth and by federal government incentive programs, through the Agricultural and Livestock Plan.
From the second half of the 90’s, the seed industry in Brazil has gone through major changes, with the establishment of new legislation in the seeds ‘areas, intellectual property and biosafety, with the consequent availability of biotechnology in the market. The Brazil’s entry into the WTO has triggered a series of changes and adjustments in national legislation, especially in intellectual property, involving several links in the chain such as public and private research, the seed industry, trade and also the government agencies responsible for implementing policies for the sector. Regarding to intellectual property was established broader mechanisms of rights ownership with the creation of the Patents Act (1996) and the Protection of Cultivars (1997).
The new plant variety protection law significantly changed the technology generation model in the seed production area then in force in the country. Under the new model, the private initiative was called to participate in the generation of new technologies in seeds, initiating a process of structural change in the seed market, with a heavy presence of private enterprise that now operates the strong contribution of new technologies, high investments and aggressive strategies for the market conquest.
Brazil has chosen to format its law according to the UPOV Convention 1978, introducing, however, in the law, some modifications that incorporate concepts of the 1991 version. The duration of the cultivar´s protection is effective from the date of granting of the Provisional Protection Certificate, for a period of 15 years, excepting vines, fruit trees, forest trees and ornamental trees, for which the duration shall be 18 years. Once the term of validity of the right of protection is done, the cultivar will fall into the public domain and may be freely used by any person, without the authorization of the protection holder.
According to the legislation, new cultivars and those derived essentially from any genus or species are entitled to protection, if they meet the requirements of distinguishing, homogeneity and stability (DUS). In other words, the cultivar must be distinct, different from another cultivar; homogeneous, have uniformity in their characteristics; be stable and maintain homogeneity during successive plantations. Besides that, it may not have been offered for sale in Brazil for more than 12 months in relation to the date of the protection request, and have not been offered for sale in other countries, with the knowledge of the breeder, for over six years.
Among the exceptions to the breeder’s rights, the law provides for the right of the farmer to reserve and plant seeds in his establishment, using for own consumption the product obtained from the planting of a protected cultivar. It also contemplates the right of the breeder, who may use the material as a source of genetic variation; except the repeated use of the cultivar for hybrid formation or the creation of essentially derived varieties.
The system adopted by Brazil foresee that the National Service of Protection of Cultivars, agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply which will be executed by the interested party in obtaining the protection of the cultivar. Thereby, it is through demand submitted by the productive sector that the National Service of Protection of Cultivars initiates a new directive of DUS or promotes the revision of the existing ones.
Today the National Service for Plant Variety Protection has included more than 110 species in the plant variety protection regime and has granted more than 3,386 Crop Protection Certificates. By the year of 2004 the majority of plant variety protection requests were related to major crops such as soybeans, coffee, rice, wheat and cotton. From 2004, requests for the protection of ornamental, forage, oil and fruit species increased significantly an in 2016, these species already accounted for 38% of the requests for protection of cultivars. Only the group of ornamental species represented about 21% of the protection order.
Unlike the National Service of Protection of Cultivars, the National Register of Cultivars (RNC) is the register of cultivars qualified for the production, marketing and use of seeds and seedlings throughout the national territory and is linked to the Seed and Seed Coordination (CSM/MAPA), to the Department of Agricultural Inputs Supervision (DFIA/MAPA) connected to the Agricultural Protection Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (SDA/MAPA). Its importance is due to the condition of being an instrument of market organization that aims to protect the farmer from the indiscriminate sale of seeds and seedlings of cultivars not tested or validated against the conditions of Brazilian agriculture. The RNC aims to discipline the use of cultivars that have a remarkable application in national agriculture, that meet the technical conditions of being distinct, homogeneous and stable and that have a value of cultivation and use – VCU, identified.
The National Register of Cultivars of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply has got today more than 36 thousand cultivars registered and only 9% of which are protected by intellectual property. Regarding the cultivars registered, 42% of the registrations with the National Register of Cultivars (RNC) are of ornamental species, 24% are cultivars of vegetable crops, 22% of large crops, 8% of cultivars of forest species and 4% of cultivars of fruit species.
These numbers presented are quite impressive, especially when we consider that the seed market in Brazil can still be considered a developing market when compared to more consolidated markets such as the US market or EU markets for seeds and seedlings. For anyone involved in agribusiness, it is easy to see that the seed area is directly responsible for the success or failure of food production, as well as being an essential factor to leverage national agriculture. More than this, it is in the performance of this sector that the very sustainability of agribusiness lies.
Used to cyclical and all sort of difficulties, the seed industry continues to strengthen and will certainly have the necessary conditions to further leverage the Brazilian presence in the global market. There are aspects, however, that the current industry leaders should be aware of, so that a current trend of weakening the system does not worsen. In order to keep the national system of seeds and seedlings in constant evolution, it is really important to break with the immediacy and fragmented view that prevails in some segments of agribusiness, that the agricultural cycle begins in the planting when, in fact, it starts well before, with the work of the researchers in the development of new cultivars and technologies. Respect for intellectual property should continue to be the basis of the seed business in Brazil.
It is necessary to raise awareness among all small and medium-sized farmers that only by efficient use of technology will wealth continue to be shared maximizing efficiency and productivity, essential conditions for the Brazilian agribusiness to continue to present surprising numbers
The first vocation of Brazil is agricultural, and the national system of seeds and seedlings is strategic for the country.