The stakeholders of the French seed sector
All the stakeholders of the French seed and plant sector are tightly linked. They represent different parts of a chain leading from variety creation to consumer use of seeds and plants.
Stakeholders include companies of all sizes as well as farmers and home gardeners. They form six general groups, which are described below according to their order of appearance in the production and supply chain (example taken from the flax fibre sector).
1. Plant breeding companies
Located at the beginning of the production chain, plant breeding companies create new varieties and produce first-generation seeds. Carried out in fields, laboratories, and greenhouses, this work results in 550 new varieties per year for all species.
In France, there are 70 companies involved in breeding of new plant varieties. Found in different parts of the country, they are mostly SMEs and micro enterprises (as per the EU definition). Around half have less than 1 million euros in turnover, and they invest an average of 13% of their turnover in research and development. Comparatively, overall mean R&D by French companies is 2%!
2. Seed growers
There are around 19,000 farmers who grow seeds: they plant seeds provided by seed production companies in their fields to multiply seed numbers.
Seed growers are largely present in five major seed production regions (Centre-Pays de Loire, northern France and the Paris Basin, southwestern France, the Mediterranean, and the Rhône Valley), but a few can be found in each administrative department of France.
It takes great technical skill to grow seeds. Thanks to their agricultural skills, French seed growers manage to produce large numbers of high-quality seeds on 380,000 hectares of land.
3. Seed production companies
Seed production companies clean, treat, package, and market the seeds furnished to them by seed growers, with whom they establish production contracts.
They possess technologically advanced and highly effective industrial-grade tools that they use to ensure that their commercial seeds meet safety and high quality standards.
In France, there are 246 seed production companies, ranging from cooperatives to private firms of every size. They form a strong nationwide network.
4. Seed distributors
Seed distributors sell seeds, and provide related advice, to all types of consumers.
Some distributors sell to farmers. Others work with landscaping professionals. Distributors may be cooperatives or private firms. In general, individual consumers and home gardeners buy their seeds from garden-supply companies and big-box home improvement stores.
5. Seed consumers
Farmers employ seeds to grow and market plants destined for human consumption, animal consumption, or industrial use. There are more than 450,000 farmers in France.
At present, nearly 16.5 million home gardeners use seeds to grow flowers, vegetables, and lawn, either to meet landscaping requirements in common areas or for the pure pleasure of having a home garden.
Landscaping specialists are also frequent seed consumers because they rely on plants to liven up public spaces, such as parks, gardens, and sport fields.
6. Industrial consumers
Industrial consumers transform raw agricultural products into food or non-food products. A non-exhaustive list includes flour, sugar, pasta, edible oil, pet food, fabric, fuel, or eco-friendly materials.
Industrial stakeholders have an interest in the technological, organoleptic, and environmental properties of the plant varieties used to create the products they transform. Consequently, such stakeholders are also part of the seed sector.