How maize seed companies use market intelligence

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    CGIAR Initiative on Market Intelligence
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(Photo: Seed marketing workshop participants, Nairobi, 22 November ,2022)

Pieter Rutsaert, Pauline Muindi, Jason Donovan

In the case of hybrid maize, local and privately owned seed companies design new seed products and distribute them to farmers, who are important market intelligence clients. Local maize seed companies typically lack marketing departments capable of generating market intelligence, and affordable market intelligence services for seed companies remain scarce.

The hybrid maize seed industry in Kenya provides an interesting example. Most Kenyan maize farmers cultivate 2 ha or less of maize and purchase maize seeds twice a year at the start of the long and short rains seasons. Getting new products into the market has been a challenge since farmers tend to purchase products released 20–30 years ago. Considering the sizable investments and risk required to build market share for new seed products, seed companies may delay the launch of new products or forgo new product development altogether (continuing to rely on the sales of older products). They may also underinvest in the marketing of new products, for example, when a seed company launches a new product, it hopes to get lucky, that the farmers notice the product quickly enough to recover investments in new product design, development, and production.

One way to engage the private sector in market intelligence is via in-person workshops. On 22 November, 2022, the International Maize and Improvement Center (CIMMYT) convened seed company representatives to a workshop titled “Hybrid Maize Seed Marketing in Kenya” to present recent research findings and plan future research that responds to the maize seed industry’s needs. Representatives from all Kenyan seed companies attended, as did representatives from agrodealers, government institutions, development organizations, and farming organizations.

During the workshop, CIMMYT scientists shared insights gathered through market research on a variety of topics to do with maize seed demand. Besides sharing findings, this engagement was also used to set direction for our future research agenda. The workshop was well received by participants and insights presented to seed companies resulted in highly interesting changes since made by the companies.

During follow-up interviews in January 2024, different companies shared how they used what they learned from the workshop to make improvements in areas such as marketing campaigns, channel engagement strategy, and portfolio review.

During the workshop, CIMMYT scientists showed how videos can be used in communication about maize seed. Seed companies have begun experimenting with use of videos to communicate technical information as well as testimonials about their seed varieties on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok.

One company mentioned how it updated its leaflets to make them more appealing to farmers based on the feedback in the workshop on farmers’ perceptions of seed company leaflets. After highlighting the role agrodealers can play in promotion, several seed companies also confirmed increased interaction with agrodealers to promote their products.

Another company mentioned that it is shifting its product portfolio and is introducing an early maturity variety based on recent findings from concept testing in Kenya and Uganda as well as a study assessing seed sales. This way, the company hopes to respond to changing farmer requirements.

To keep engagements high with seed companies, the workshop will be repeated in 2024 to share new insights from new studies that were informed by stated areas of interest from the seed companies attending the 2022 workshop, such as the impact of distributing free seed packs, the potential for GM maize in Kenya, and stronger engagements with agrodealers to drive seed sales.

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