Following the Philippines’ success with genetically modified corn, Vietnam and Indonesia are set to clear commercial cultivation of GM corn making South East Asia a major animal feed production hub, according to Syngenta officials.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture hopes to “quickly introduce” genetically modified hybrids of corn next year, according to Pham Van Dhuc, Deputy Director-General in the Department of Crop Production, under the Ministry.

Addressing a group of journalists from the Asia Pacific, on a recent trip to Vietnam organised by Syngenta Asia Pacific, he said eight such hybrids have been field tested over the last two years and the Environment Ministry’s clearance is awaited. “In 2013, hopefully farmers can grow them,” he said.

Corn stats

Corn is an important crop as it is a major source of animal feed. Over 1.2 million hectares of corn is under cultivation as compared with 730,000 hectares in 2001. More than 90 per cent of the area is under hybrid corn with yields ranging around 4.3 tonnes a hectare. Vietnam still imports over a million tonnes of corn annually to meet its domestic animal feed demand.

The Government hopes to enhance the yield to 6-7.5 tonnes a hectare.

According to Adam Tomlinson, Food & Agribusiness Research and Advisory, Rabobank International, Vietnam can emerge a “hub for Asia in feed production.”

Maize displaces rice

The rapid increase in corn acreage in the last decade is an indication that maize is winning the battle as compared with rice, the staple food. This is significant as corn imports are set to increase in the Asian region.

To Syngenta and other major crop input multinationals, this is a significant announcement. In the ASEAN, corn is cultivated over 8.5 million hectares with 70 per cent market share going to multinationals including Syngenta, Monsanto and Pioneer, apart from regional market leaders.

According to Dr Hardeep Grewal, Head of Corn Marketing, Syngenta Asia Pacific, the next level of development will be in introduction of biotech traits into the crop for pest and weed control. In the South East Asia, the Philippines is a significant success story in introduction of genetically modified corn. Vietnam is the next major market followed by Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

(This article was published on November 27, 2012)
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