Monsanto revealed plans to exploit the growing popularity of
corn in eastern Europe, where Ukraine plantings have hit a record high, citing potential for advanced canola seed too.
The seed giant named eastern Europe, with China, as one of
its two "emerging market opportunities", terming "established" the South
American markets which have driven growth at Monsanto and rivals in recent
Robb Fraley, the US-based group's chief technology officer,
told investors the group was planning "intensive" investment in expanding its
corn seed production capacity in central and eastern Europe.
A Monsanto spokesman said the company did not "have more
information at this time" on the proposals.
However, the move had been made in response to "rapid growth
in farmer demand" for quality seed, the spokesman said.
Mr Fraley said the group had a "real yield opportunity" in
eastern Europe, "which has rich, black soil and large tracts of uncultivated,
arable land", but where corn yields are half the levels of western Europe, where
farms typically operate more advanced agronomic practices.
Corn yields for central and eastern Europe average some 4.5
tonnes a hectare, or 70 bushels an acre, compared with 8.5 tonnes per hectare
"Eastern Europe has great potential to really boost
productivity with better genetics in corn and canola," the rapeseed variant, he
MHP, the Ukrainian sausages-to-sunflowers groups, last year claimed a yield of 300 bushels an acre on one of its farms.
Mr Fraley also highlighted the region's potential as for
shipments, saying it was "well-positioned geographically as an exporter to the
rest of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East".
The comments come amid what is expected to be a record 2011-12
season for Ukraine corn exports, forecast by the US Department of Agriculture
at 14.0m tonnes – ranking the country second only to the US among corn
Production hit a record 22.8m tonnes last year, according to
the USDA, which sees output rising further to 24.0m tonnes this year.
Ukraine's farm ministry said on Monday that farmers had
nearly completed corn sowings this year, of 4.5m hectares, compared with 3.5m
hectares last year.
However, an increasing proportion of farmers appear to be switching to Ukraine-produced seed, encouraged by improved quality, US Department of Agriculture staff in Kiev said two weeks ago.
"More and more domestic seed producers are beginning to show good results," they said.
Monsanto estimated total eastern European corn area at 27m
acres, (10.9m hectares).
Sowings are to rise by 12.1% to 1.20m hectares in Hungary
this year, 13.3% to 2.55m hectares in Romania, and 52% to 1.55m hectares in Russia,
according to the USDA.
Monsanto shares closed 0.7% higher at $71.82 in New York.