Javier Valdés
Director General
Syngenta Latin America North

Hybrid Crops Protect Mexico’s Agriculture

Wed, 03/21/2018 - 10:27

Mexico is already among the biggest food exporters in the world, ranking 12th according to SAGARPA, but genetic research can help the country improve its standing while providing farmers with a better income, says Javier Valdés, Director General of Syngenta Latin America North. “Mexico has been growing in terms of exports. At Syngenta, we contribute to this growth through genetic research. We help Mexico’s farmers make the most of their crops by developing products with the physical characteristics that the US or European markets need.”
Syngenta is making a strong bet on the seeds market, in which the company ranks third worldwide. “The Mexican seed market is worth US$1 billion but globally the market is valued at US$40 billion, which makes it an important segment for us,” says Valdés. The main threats to seeds are weather, pests and diseases. However, hybrid materials can better fight against these elements. “The genetics of the seed have a major impact on what farmers harvest. Our research focuses on that,” he says. “We develop hybrid materials that allow seeds to tolerate different temperatures, droughts, pests and diseases.”
Development of seeds, in most cases, adheres to the specific needs of each country but having a broader vision of what is happening elsewhere can help develop solutions to problems that are not yet in Mexico. “One of the advantages we have is that we can identify the mechanics and movements of crop diseases and plagues and develop the technologies needed to protect crops against them,” explains Valdés, highlighting the problem of coffee rust in Colombia. “We realized that the problem started to spread to Central America, so we developed solutions for this. When the rust problem attacked Mexican crops, we were ready for it.”
To help improve sustainability in the agriculture sector, Syngenta laid out The Good Growth Plan, targeting an increase in farm productivity by 2020. In Mexico, the company has already surpassed expectations. “We have done a really good job to increase crop productivity in Mexico. In some places, potato productivity has increased by 20 percent and in some areas tomato productivity has doubled,” says Valdés. “For every 1 percent increase in farm productivity, income is likely to rise between six and seven times,” he continues. Helping to boost profitability also helps keep farmers at home. “We want to help farmers stay in their local communities and not migrate to cities or to the US. The only way to achieve this is to make their activities more profitable and more attractive through the use of new technologies.”
In addition to boosting productivity, Syngenta is involved in expanding the producer value chain. The company has established working relations with important food companies, providing them with high-quality seeds and crop protection products. “We are working with food companies to insert producers into their value chains. The idea is to help companies develop a high-quality national supply chain and to help farmers by connecting them with the industries that need their product,” says Valdés.
Syngenta Mexico is an active participant in the New Vision for Agriculture (VIDA) program defined by the World Economic Forum, a project dedicated to sustainable agricultural practices that deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity. The program involves over 600 private sector organizations and 21 countries.
Although Syngenta participates in the first stages of the agricultural production chain, Valdés is determined to deepen the company’s support of the Mexican agricultural ecosystem. “We collaborate heavily with farmers to help their crops achieve the correct flavor, color and physical characteristics demanded by clients. We will continue collaborating to further develop Mexico’s role as an exporting platform and for Mexican consumers to have high-quality products. In a few years, Mexico will be among the Top 10 food producers in the world,” he says.