DuPont seed unit’s Delmas R&D plant eyes Africa growth

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Wiseman Khuzwayo

The construction of a regional research centre in Delmas in Mpumalanga should enable DuPont Pioneer to deliver more new products to Africa, and do it faster, the US-based agriscience business said yesterday.

Speaking on a conference call, Pamela Chitenhe, the unit’s regional director for Africa, said the continent was forecast to have a birthrate of 70 000 a day for the next 40 years. To feed these people, 70 percent more safe, nutritious food would be needed.

“Food solutions must be local due to variations in climate and culture. It must be affordable, available, safe and of good quality. As DuPont, we believe we must be innovative to feed the world.”

DuPont Pioneer develops advanced plant genetics, supplying innovative genetically modified seeds to farmers in more than 90 countries.

It had committed R62 million to build a research centre by 2017 that would bring advanced research and development (R&D) to Africa, Paul Schickler, the president of the DuPont subsidiary, said recently. The technology hub in South Africa would be similar to others the unit has established in Brazil, India and China.

Chitenhe said DuPont would commit $10 billion (R99bn) globally to R&D and 4 000 new products would be introduced. The teleconference introduced the 2013 global food security index, which was developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit and economists from DuPont, and is sponsored by the company.

It is a ranking tool to measure food security and monitor the impact of agricultural investments, collaboration and policies in 107 countries, including 28 in sub-Saharan Africa.

The latest index shows that the nations in the region, which include Senegal, Ethiopia and Botswana, made significant progress in the past year, with the three most-improved sub-Saharan countries rising an average of eight places in the food index.

Improvements were attributed to greater food availability and income growth. The progress in developing nations contrasts with a deterioration in some European economies, particularly Greece. Its score fell as a result of fallout from financial distress and lower gross domestic product (GDP).

South Africa ranked 36th in the food availability category. Its overall strengths include high nutritional standards, a lower proportion of the population under the global poverty line, and relatively high self-sufficiency in food supply.

The country’s challenges include small GDP per capita, low public expenditure on agricultural R&D, and minimal food safety net programmes.

Last week DuPont Pioneer and Pannar Seed sealed a transaction in which the US multinational acquired the majority ownership in Pannar.

Pannar, a South African seed company, has operations throughout Africa and in other parts of the world.

Kobus Lindeque, an area leader at Monsanto, said he could not comment on DuPont Pioneer’s R&D budget and on its plans in Africa.


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