Canadian Seed Sector Profile

July 2014

Introduction

Canada is recognized worldwide as a leading producer, processor and exporter of high-quality seed for a wide range of crops. It is a diverse sector that contributes billions to the Canadian economy and provides jobs for thousands. It is an innovation-focused industry that utilizes complex technologies with millions invested annually in seed research and development.

This report is an overview of the seed industry in Canada, providing a clear picture of how it is structured and its impact on the Canadian economy.

Canada's seed sector:

  • Plays a critical role in the agri-food value chain;
  • Drives agricultural innovation;
  • Contributes billions to the Canadian economy;
  • Encompasses diverse crops and businesses; and
  • Fuels a strong export market.

Critical role in agri-food value chain

  • Seed is the critical first link in the agri-food value chain. It's the starting point for growing crops that produce food, feed and other bioproducts for both domestic and export markets.

Driver of agricultural innovation

  • The industry utilizes complex technologies to produce seed that farmers plant to achieve increased productivity and market opportunities.
  • Canada is known for its adoption of leading-edge technologies, including biotechnology, genomics and other plant breeding advances.
  • Private sector invested about $110 million in plant breeding, research and varietal development in 2012.
  • In addition to the private sector, there is also a significant public investment in seed research at the Federal, Provincial and University level.

Significant contributor to the Canadian economy

  • Total economic impact (direct and indirect) of the seed industry in Canada is estimated at $5.61 billion.
  • The implied employment effect of the seed industry is 57,420 jobs and $1.67 billion in wages and salaries, and generates about $81.9 million in tax revenue.

Diverse sector with numerous crops and various businesses

  • Canada's fertile soil and various climatic zones enable seed producers to grow more than 50 different crops.
  • The sector encompasses many types of businesses, including: plant breeding and research, seed growers, seed conditioners and seed testing labs as well as seed distributors, brokers and exporters.
  • The sector involves business of all sizes – from small farmer seed growers and independent seed companies to large multinationals.

Strong export market and trade relationships

  • Canadian seed exports have increased markedly since 2009/10. In 2012/13, Canadian seed exports were valued at approximately $450 million.
  • Canadian seed companies and plant breeders are involved in many aspects of the international seed trade such as germplasm exchange, global research and development programs, contract production for export, and marketing new varieties imported into Canada.

Critical role in agri-food value chain

Seed: the starting point of all agri-food output

The Canadian seed industry is the critical first link in the agri-food value chain. Seed is the starting point for growing crops that produce food, feed and other bioproducts such as feedstock for biofuels. Much of the innovation for increased productivity and market opportunities for farmers is delivered by seed.

Seed - Food - Feed - Bioproducts

Structure of Canada's Seed Sector

The seed value chain can be described by five basic links: plant breeders; seed growers; seed conditioners; seed distributors and retailers; and farmers (seed end users). In the case of seed exports, seed conditioners and distributors ship seed to end users around the world.

Structure of Canada's Seed Sector: Description of this image follows.
Description

The diagram describes the links along the seed sector value chain. The first link in the seed sector value chain are plant breeders. Plant breeders include private companies, universities, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and select provincial agriculture departments).

Research and Plant Breeding:

  • Private companies
    • 135 Scientists
    • 227 Technicians
    • 100 Support staff
    • 155 Summer staff
  • Universities (McGill, Guelph, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta)
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Provincial Agriculture Departments

The second link in the seed sector value chain are seed growers.

Seed Growers:

  • 3,500 Pedigree seed growers
  • 1,800 Forage seed growers (includes pedigree and common seed growers)
  • 400 Seed corn growers
  • 370 Potato seed growers

The third link in the seed sector value chain are seed conditioners and laboratories.

Seed Conditioners and Seed Labs:

  • Registered Seed Establishments
  • 574 Approved Conditioners
  • 851 Bulk Storage Facilities
  • 33 Accredited seed labs

The value chain then splits into two branches at this point. The first branch leads to seed distributors, brokers, exporters who in turn supply both domestic farmers and export shipments as the end consumers. The second branch leads to farmer retailers who in turn also supply domestic farmers as the end consumer.

Distributors, Brokers and Exporters:

  • 130 Canadian Seed Trade Association member companies Seed Imports
  • 84 Authorized Importers

Driver of agricultural innovation

Sophisticated seed technology advances industry

The seed sector is continuously evolving. Due to its unique position as a starting point for the agri-food value chain, it is an industry that embraces innovation and technological advancement to produce new plant varieties with desirable attributes, such as higher yield potential, greater disease resistance, improved grain quality and more. Innovation carried in seed can also help the agriculture sector meet consumer demands for improved nutrition, appearance and processing characteristics as well as help reduce agriculture's environmental foot print.

Canada is known for its adoption of leading-edge technologies. This includes biotechnology, genomics, molecular breeding and other plant breeding advances. The Canadian seed industry has invested a large amount of resources in developing new seed products, ideas, patents and techniques that create value up the chain by increasing yield, quality and consistency, which allows Canada to enjoy a unique brand position in domestic and international markets.

Investment in research and development

Canada is at the forefront in research and development initiatives.

  • Private sector invested about $110 million in plant breeding, research and varietal development in 2012.
  • CSTA members expect research and development expenditure to increase to about $116 million by 2017. (Public investment in research is not included in these estimates).

In 2012, private companies invested almost $110 million in plant breeding, research and variety development in Canada. That is almost 6% of their combined domestic sales and it represents an increase of more than 90% from 2007. The forecast is that private investment will increase by another $6 million by 2017. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1: Private sector research investment forecast ($ million)

Figure 1: Description of this image follows.
Description

Private sector research investment forecast in $ million (year): 56 (2007), 110 (2012), 116 (2017)

To date, research and development has been largely focused on canola, corn and soybeans. In the future, the focus is expected to broaden into cereals. By continuously improving plant genetics, Canadian seed researchers and producers are able to meet the growing demand for food, feed and bioproducts. The industry also contributes to the health of Canadians through seed technology that results in more nutritious crops that are safe and meet the functionality requirements of consumers.

In addition to this private sector investment, there is a significant public investment in research at the Federal, Provincial and University level.


Significant contributor to the Canadian economy

Economic impactFootnote 1

A study conducted by the George Morris Centre in 2013 estimated the total economic impact (direct and indirect) of the seed industry to be $5.61 billion. The sector's estimated contribution to Canada's GDP is about $2.5 billion (based on the GDP multiplier).

The total economic impact of pedigreed seed production is estimated at approximately $2.58 billion per year. This is based on an estimated direct economic output (sales) of $879 million and estimated indirect sales of almost $1.7 billion.

The total indirect economic impact of the processing, marketing and distribution of seed is estimated at a value of $3.82 billion, based on direct impact (estimated industry sales) of $1.79 billion.

In 2012/13, Canadian seed exports were valued at approximately $450 million, up from $220 million in 2009/10. Over the past four years, average Canadian seed exports totaled about $320 million.

Employment

The Canadian seed industry employs Canadians working in various segments of the industry, including plant breeding and research, seed production, seed processing and production support, and seed sales and marketing.

There are more than 600 people employed in the research departments of private sector seed companies as scientists, technicians, and support and summer staff. At least another 1,000 are employed in seed sales, production and processing roles.Footnote 2

The implied employment effects of the industry based on the Statistics Canada multiplier is 57,420 jobs and $1.67 billion in wages and salaries, generating about $81.9 million in tax revenue.

Seed revenue

The Canadian seed market size and value is rapidly growing, Canadian farmers spent $1.6 billion on seed for planting in 2013, which is up nearly 25% from 2010. This impressive increase is evidence of the importance of the seed sector as a basis for grain, oilseed and forage production, but also contributes significant revenue as a standalone industry.

Canadian Seed Sector by the numbers:
  • $5.61 billion = Estimated total economic impact (direct and indirect) of the Canadian seed industry
  • $2.58 billion = Estimated total economic impact (direct and indirect) of pedigreed seed production on farms in Canada
  • $3.82 billion = Estimated total economic impact (indirect) of Canadian seed processing, marketing and distribution
  • $450 million = Approximate seed exports in 2012
  • 57,420 jobs = Implied employment effects of seed industry
  • $110 million = Private sector investment in plant breeding, research and varietal development in 2012
  • $116 million = Forecasted research and development expenditure by 2017

Diverse sector with numerous crops and various businesses

Diverse and numerous Canadian crops

Canada's unique geography, which includes several different climatic zones and millions of acres of fertile soil, enables producers to grow diverse and numerous crops.

  • Approximately 50 principal crops are grown for seed in Canada, including: forage and turf, grains and oilseeds, special crops and more
  • Pedigreed seed varieties increased from 557 in 1978 to 2,076 in 2012
Seed crops grown in Canada
Class Category Crop type
Forages Legumes
  • Alfalfa
  • Cicer milkvetch
  • Sainfoin
  • Alsike clover
  • Red clover
  • Sweet clover
  • Birdsfoot trefoil
Forages Grasses
  • Bluegrass
  • Fescue
  • Ryegrass
  • Bromegrass
  • Orchard grass
  • Timothy
  • Creeping red fescue
  • Reed canary grass
  • Wheatgrass
Turf
  • Creeping red fescue
  • Perennial ryegrass
  • Kentucky bluegrass
  • Turf-type tall fescue
Grains Cereals
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Oats
  • Triticale
Grains
  • Hybrid corn
Oilseeds
  • Canola
  • Soybeans
  • Flax
Pulses
  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Peas
  • Fababeans
  • Lentils
  • White beans
Vegetable
  • Seed Potatoes
  • Vegetable seed
Other
  • Buckwheat
  • Mustard
  • Sweet corn
  • Canary seed
  • Sunflowers
  • Red and white millet

Seed growers

There were 1.2 million pedigreed seed acres produced by 3,565 seed growers in 2013. Consolidation and increase in average farm size has decreased the number of seed farms from a high of 5,723 in 1982. The average size of farms producing seed increased to 340.8 acres in 2012 from 126.5 in 1978.

Forage seed farms, some of which are included in the number of pedigree seed growers above, number approximately 1,800 in Canada. In addition, there are approximately 400 hybrid seed corn growers and 370 potato seed growers in Canada. There are also a small number of vegetable seed producers in Canada.

Seed conditioners

Canada's seed processing and conditioning segment includes nearly 1,000 Registered Seed Establishments (RSE). This includes 574 Approved Conditioners (AC) and 851 Bulk Storage Facilities (BSF). (Note: some ACs are also BSFs.) Many are small and medium-sized integrated operations that produce the pedigreed seed that they process. There is also a subset of larger firms that function in several areas of the seed value chain such as research, marketing and distribution in addition to seed processing/conditioning.

National seed organizations

The primary national seed organizations are the Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) and the Canadian Seed Growers' Association (CSGA). The industry is also supported by the Canadian Seed Institute (CSI) and the Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada (CSAAC).

The CSTA represents approximately 130 seed companies and a broad cross-section of Canadian businesses that develop, produce, sell, and export seed. Membership ranges from those who market garden seeds to large western grain handlers, and from small family-run businesses to multinational seed companies.

CSGA, which represents about 3,500 seed growers, provides leadership as the Canadian organization designated in federal Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations to certify pedigreed seed crops for all agricultural crop kinds in Canada (except potatoes). Each year the CSGA certifies more than 18,000 crops, of at least 2,000 varieties of 50 different species, grown on over 1 million acres, the world's largest acreage of certified seed crops.

The CSI delivers accreditation and monitoring programs for the Canadian seed industry. Recognized by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), CSI has been given the mandate to be the single point of contact for all seed establishments, seed laboratories, operators and graders seeking registration, licensing or accreditation. Currently, CSI monitors approximately 574 ACs, 851 BSFs, 84 authorized importers (AIs) and 33 accredited seed testing laboratories.

CSAAC is a group of more than 100 individuals who have an interest in the seed testing industry. The organization enables Commercial Seed Analysts to keep abreast of changes and improvements in seed analysis, and maintains the highest proficiency and professional standards among its members.

Acts and regulations

Canada's seed regulations, quality and purity standards and intellectual property protection help to enhance the industry's competitiveness. Here are the key pieces of legislation and regulation:

  • Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations help to ensure that seeds sold in, imported into and exported from Canada meet established standards for quality and are labelled so that they are properly represented in the marketplace, and are registered prior to sale in Canada. The Seeds Act encompasses several seed regulations such as variety registration, seed certification, Plants With Novel Traits as well as grade tables and weed seeds order.
  • Plant Breeders' Rights (PBR) Act provides the developers of plant varieties with an opportunity to recover investment in research. The rights include the ability to charge a royalty and to control the sale of propagating material. Users who do not remit royalties or sell a protected variety for propagating purposes may be prosecuted by the holder of the right or their agent. The International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) is an intergovernmental organization established in 1961 by the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants to increase plant breeders' rights and help to strengthen the seed and agri-food sector.

Seed as an input

According to the Census of Agriculture, total per farm expenses (of all farms) equate to $205,000 per farm, of which seed accounts for almost 10%.Footnote * A total of 112,000 farms reported the cost of $2.15 billion dollars for seed, which is $19,156 average per farm expense. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Farm expenses average per farm 2010 (% value)

Figure 2: Description of this image follows.
Description

Farm expenses average per farm 2010 (% value): Seed 9%, Chemical 10$, Fuel 6%, Electricity 3%, Fertilizer 15%, Feed 27%, Labour 30%

Comparing the seed industry's contribution to the overall value of Canadian agriculture (not accounting for the downstream production), the industry's value is ranked amongst the highest in terms of farm cash receipts. Seed accounted for approximately 5% of all agricultural farm cash receipts in 2011. Revenue associated with seed production in Canada amounted to approximately $2.15 billion dollars, which is surpassed by only two crops, canola and wheat. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. Seed farm cash receipts vs. other select commodities 2010 ($ billion)

Figure 3: Description of this image follows.
Description

Seed farm cash receipts vs. other select commodities 2010 ($ billion) (Approximate): Canola 5.6, Wheat 3.9, Seed 2.1, Floriculture 1.8, Corn 1.6, Soybeans 1.6, Greenhouse vegetables 1.2, All field vegetables 1.2, Potato 1.1, All fruits .8, Lentils .8, Peas .9


Strong export market and trade relationships

International seed trade

In addition to its strong contribution to the domestic economy, Canadian seed attracts significant demand internationally. Canadian seed companies and plant breeders are involved in many aspects of the international seed trade, including:

  • Variety and germplasm exchange agreements;
  • Multi-national R&D efforts;
  • Contractual agreements for production of seed for export and import;
  • Marketing new varieties imported into Canada; and
  • Marketing new varieties abroad.

Trade balance

Canada is active in the world seed market and benefiting from increased seed trade. In 2011/2012, seed accounted for approximately $356 million in imports and $353 million in exports making Canada a net importer of seed, with a trade deficit of approximately $3 million.

Exports

Seed exports have increased markedly since 2009/10, consistent with increases in crop prices. In 2012/13, Canadian seed exports were valued at nearly $450 million, up from $220 million three years prior. (See Figure 4.) Commodities that account for the majority of export sales are: forage seeds, corn, soybeans and peas.

Figure 4. Canada's seed exports $ million

Figure 4: Description of this image follows.
Description

Figure 4. Canada's seed exports $ million - Approximate (Year): 220 (09/10), 250 (10/11), 350 (11/12), 450 (12/13)

The largest importers of Canadian seed are the United States (75%), the Netherlands (4%), China (3%), Germany (3%) and Japan (3%). Together, these countries accounted for approximately 88% of total Canadian seed exports in 2011/2012. Markets have changed since 2007/2008 with a shift in focus from developed countries such as Japan (- 44%), Italy, France and the United Kingdom to developing countries such as China (+95%). There has also been a consolidation of sales to the United States that accounted for 56% of exports in 2007/2008 and increased to 75% of total exports in 2011/2012. (See Figure 5.)

Figure 5. Canada's export markets 2011/2012 (% value)

Figure 5: Description of this image follows.
Description

Canada's export markets 2011/2012 (% value): United States 75%, Other 12%, Netherlands 4%, Japan 3%, Germany 3%, China 3%


Conclusion

In summary, Canada's seed sector is a diverse and dynamic industry that:

  • Plays a critical role in the agri-food value chain;
  • Drives agricultural innovation;
  • Contributes billions to the Canadian economy;
  • Encompasses diverse crops and businesses; and
  • Fuels a strong export market.

References

  • Economic Profile of the Canadian Seed Sector – Seed Producer Summary and Seed Processor Summary,
  • George Morris Centre, 2014.
  • Statistics Canada
  • Canadian Seed Trade Association
  • Canadian Seed Growers' Association
  • Canadian Seed Institute
  • Commercial Seed Analysts Association of Canada
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency

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