Lal Teer Seed Limited, a Bangladesh-based research company involved in the development and production of high-quality seeds, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to increase the quality and quantity of seeds produced for domestic use. The company is committed to providing 30 percent of the quality seeds needed to secure Bangladesh’s food supply by 2020.
In addition to developing and distributing new breeds of high-yield, open-pollinated and hybrid seeds, Lal Teer’s inclusive business model calls for integrating an additional 5 million smallholder farmers into the country’s value chain, and innovating new packaging and distribution methods.
“While we are an agrarian-based society, Bangladesh’s public and private sectors supply only 25 percent of the country’s domestic seed needs. That number must increase to 60 percent if we are to achieve long-term food security”, said Abdul Awal Mintoo, Lal Teer’s Chairman. “We believe our inclusive business model, which involves improving seed quality and quantity while increasing opportunities for smallholder farmers, can make a huge contribution to meeting these needs. We are pleased to have our work recognized by the Business Call to Action.”
Bangladesh is a sub-tropical country with 70 percent of its population engaged in agriculture. Major crops include rice, potatoes, vegetables, maize, wheat, oil and pulses, and fruits. Due to an inadequate supply of quality seeds, crop production is lower than that of developed countries. Until the early 1990s, the country’s public sector controlled the seed industry – and there were few quality seeds available. In 1995, Bangladesh’s Government began encouraging private-sector involvement in both seed production and supply. Today, the private sector provides seeds for both the local and export markets, and there are now a handful domestic companies – including Lal Teer – investing in seed research and production.
To maximize the impact of its work on production and distribution, Lal Teer is working with governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including: the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the International Finance Corporation (IFC); AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center; CYMMIT-International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center; NL Agency; Netherlands Space Office (NSO); Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI); and the top universities of Bangladesh. One such partnership, with the NGO Swisscontact, has led the company to an entirely new distribution model, which is having far-reaching impacts on poor and homestead farmers.
Market research conducted by Katalyst, a market development project implemented by Swisscontact, demonstrated how seed companies could expand their business models by reaching ultra-poor farmers and rural women. The key to reaching this untapped market was distributing seed packets that were appropriately sized and priced.
Lal Teer saw an opening for a new product offering and in 2011 introduced the concept of seed mini-packets. Roughly one-tenth the size of standard packets, these affordably priced mini-packets are sold at local shops and hold enough seeds to cover less than half an acre of land. This makes them ideally suited for the needs of smallholder and homestead farmers.
Through December 2014, Lal Teer sold 3.8 million of the mini-packets to 580,000 smallholder farmers, who used the quality seed mini-packets to grow a wide variety of vegetables, which helped them to feed their families and increased their incomes through sales of surplus produce. The beneficiaries included more than 185,000 women homestead farmers, whose extra income has yielded greater decision-making power within their families, communities and beyond. In one year alone, US$14 million worth of additional vegetables were produced through this initiative, resulting in greater food security in Bangladesh.
“Lal Teer is leveraging its strengths as a private-sector leader to meet both development and food-security needs in Bangladesh, which is very much at the heart of inclusive business,” said Sahba Sobhani, BCtA’s Acting Project Manager. “We are pleased to welcome Lal Teer as a member and look forward to working with them to realize their goals.”
The only ISO-certified company in Bangladesh, Lal Teer’s goal is to expand its seed business through the development, production and distribution of high-yielding, disease-, pest- and climate-resilient varieties of vegetables, rice and other food crops. The company already has a strong nationwide sales network, with 30 district-level sales offices working with 1,200 dealers. It currently offers 165 varieties of 33 vegetable crops, including 65 hybrids and 76 are open-pollination varieties. Its catalog also includes: nine hybrid and five HYV types of rice; three maize hybrids; two cotton hybrids; three flowers hybrids; two varieties of jute; and one variety each of potato, mustard, mung bean and lentil.
About Business Call to Action (BCtA): The Business Call to Action challenges companies to advance core business activities that are inclusive of poor populations and contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals. Worldwide, 137 companies, from SMEs to multinationals, have responded to the BCtA by making commitments to improve the lives and livelihoods of millions through commercially-viable business ventures that engage low-income people as consumers, producers, suppliers, and distributors of goods and services.
The Business Call to Action is a unique multilateral alliance between key donor governments including the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), UK Department for International Development (DFID), US Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Government of Finland, and the United Nations Development Programme — which hosts the secretariat — in collaboration with leading global institutions, such as the United Nations Global Compact, and the Inter-American Development Bank’s Opportunities for the Majority Initiative.
About Lal Teer Seed Limited:
Lal Teer Seed Ltd. is the largest producer of seeds in the private sector in Bangladesh. It is a research based company which develops and produces high yielding hybrid and open pollinated seeds and also manages its own sales and marketing infrastructure. The products of Lal Teer include vegetables, rice,, maize, wheat, potato, cotton, jute, oil & pulses, flowers, and grass. Lal Teer employs 12,000 contract farmers/growers who employ more than 50,000 agricultural workers, and emphasizes attention on increasing exposure of women into the agriculture industry, specifically seed production and trade. It is the only seed producer in Bangladesh that is ISO 9001:2008 certified.
Lal Teer’s extensive research and development program throughout the country which ensures regional adaptation is its greatest strength, as with it brings quality seeds to farmers with the necessary accurate information. Due to its vast farmer ecosystem, international agencies and NGOs, as well as public research institutes and Universities collaborate with Lal Teer in technology transfer and capacity building. The company operates a modern biotechnology lab which helps in selecting parental lines and supports in testing hybridity. Lal Teer also hosts an impressive genebank facility housing several thousand germplasms. Recently the company has established a seed quality testing lab on premises within the framework of the International Seed Testing Authority (ISTA).
Lal Teer is not only contributing to the improvement of nutrition, food security, farmer empowerment, and women empowerment in Bangladesh, but the company is also poised to do its part in order to help mitigate the imminent effects of climate change.