To offer seeds that will ensure disease-free crop

Syngenta, the Switzerland-based agri-business company, is looking to play a big role in India's vegetable and rice production.

“Vegetable business is big in India. It is getting bigger. We would like to integrate vegetable seeds business with crop protection chemicals and offer them to growers there,” said Mr Michael Mack, Chief Executive Office of Syngenta.

Betting on retail trade

What offers hope to Syngenta is that India is moving into an advanced retail trade with the Indian Government keen on allowing foreign direct investment in the retail sector (though it has run into Opposition hurdles currently).

“We would like to offer seeds that will ensure disease-free crop and produce uniform size vegetables,” Mr Mack, who was here in connection with the company's inauguration of Plene facility for sugarcane, told Business Line on the sidelines.

Strategy by September

According to Syngenta officials, the company is likely to announce its strategy for the vegetable business in September this year.

Syngenta has already come up with a novel offering Tegra in rice cultivation.

Tegra method

Under the Tegra offering, it develops paddy seedlings in consultation with the grower by developing it on a special platform in a tray.

It also offers to help farmers with its expertise until the crop is ready for harvest. The advantage of this system is that it cuts labour costs for planting, consumes less water and gives a better yield.

“Tegra is coming along nicely in India. We are learning a lot, including the rice seed business. We are also learning about distribution and becoming a lot aware about small holders,” Mr Mack said.

Sugarcane division

Though sugarcane accounted for only $170 million of the company's $13.3 billion sales, Syngenta aims at increasing it to $500 million in four years and $1 billion as soon as possible.

It is a sector where the Basel-based company sees scope for better growth.

Asked about introducing the new Plene technology in India, Mr Mack said that there are no immediate plans.

Key crops

“In theory, it is the same kind of economics. But sugar industry in India is not as big or developed as in Brazil. But we will strive to give the basic technology that is of value to Indian growers,” he said.

The Syngenta CEO said the firm had a global strategy for key crops such as corn and soyabean and it included India and China.

Asian focus

Asked about its focus on Asia-Pacific region that accounted for $2 billion in 2011, lower compared with other regions, Mr Mack said: “It is the region where people are and people are turning prosperous. We see a lot of opportunity in the Asia-Pacific region and see the next piece of growth there.”

Euro crisis

On recession and Euro crisis' impact on Syngenta, he said it would affect everyone but the company would be affected a lot less in view of demand for food.

Syngenta that has a market capitalisation of $26 billion, reported an earnings before interest, tax and depreciation (EBITDA) of $2.9 million, a growth of 16 per cent in 2011.

(The trip was sponsored by Syngenta)

mrsubramani@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on June 15, 2012)
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