The US seed industry is one of the most dynamic seed industries in the world. It is also increasingly subject to the forces of globalization as a number of foreign seed businesses establish a presence in the US and US seed companies invest in and establish facilities in overseas markets. With over 750 companies doing seed business in the US, a commercial market value of approximately $12.0 billion (ASTA, 2009), and over 60,000 varieties of planting seed, the US is the largest and most diverse planting seed market in the world, followed by China, France, Brazil and India (ISF, 2012).

The US has become an important technology center of the global seed industry attracting the largest and most viable seed companies around the globe. The seed industry will continue to invest a large share of its revenue in research and development in techniques such as genetic engineering; marker assisted breeding as well as traditional breeding to develop beneficial novel traits and improved germplasm.

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With the global commercial market for planting seed estimated at $45 billion dollars (ISF, 2012) the US market is approximately 26% of the global market.

Factors needed to support export growth are the following:

  • Improved global economic conditions
  • Liberalized government agricultural and trade policies
  • Global acceptance of biotechnology and science based regulations
  • Bi-lateral and multilateral free trade agreements
  • The adoption and enforcement of intellectual property rights
  • Elimination of phytosanitary constraints
  • Science-based policies and regulations on adventitious biotech content in conventional seed
  • Increased demand and familiarity of US cultivars and seed technology

In many emerging markets, it is estimated that formal seed commerce accounts for only 10-20% of their total market with the remaining 80-90% being supplied by the non-commercial or informal market (i.e. farmer saved seed). The global market for seed still shows great potential for the future introduction of improved varieties from the US. However, the implementation of robust intellectual property regulations, particularly in emerging markets around the globe, is necessary for the widespread introduction of new and improved US varieties.

The main weaknesses of the domestic market as it relates to the international market are the advancements of US technology, pathological surveys and research, as well as science-based and market-oriented seed regulatory systems that are not always harmonized with seed importing countries.

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Share Exported:

The domestic share of US seed exported is equal to approximately $1.39 billion dollars which equates to more than 10% of the overall value of the US seed industry. (ISF 2012)

US Production US Export Exports Share of US Production World Trade US Share of World Trade
Year Value($) Value($) Value(%) Value($) Value(%) Status
2008 6,419,125,789 1,166,033,000 18 4,074,114,646 29 Actual
2009 6,547,508,305 1,250,426,000 19 4,114,855,733 30 Actual
2010 6,678,458,471 1,253,484,000 19 4,156,004,351 30 Actual
2011 6,812,027,641 1,316,158,200 19 4,197,564,394 31 Actual
2012 7,152,629,023 1,381,966,110 19 4,239,540,037 33 Actual
2013 7,295,681,603 1,451,064,416 20 4,281,935,437 34 Estimate


Data Source:

Source of data used in above table: USDA-FAS. The above-mentioned values on domestic seed production data are estimates and forecasts derived from international seed industry sources. The world market for seed (both public and commercial varieties), has been estimated at between $40-50 billion. (1. International Seed Federation (web site) 2. USDA/FAS US production increases are estimated at 2% per year. US Export growth increases are calculated as: growth + inflation + increase due to new seed technology = 5 %. World Trade Growth increases are estimated at 1% per year. Market share data source: 1) GAIN reports & 2) when no GAIN report data available, market share was computed as total US exports divided by the value of the domestic market (ISF)

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Key Markets for US Seed and Priority Issues for Market Development and Access

The ASTA membership has identified the following markets and market regions as priorities for business and trade opportunities for the US seed industry.

The total market value for the USDA defined region of Africa for the US Seed industry was $14.5 million dollars in 2007 and has increased by more than 40% over the last 4 years to a value of $20.4 million dollars in 2011.

Planting seeds remain an important US agricultural export to Argentina, totaling almost $25.6 million USD in 2012, an 11% decrease from 2010. It should be noted that this follows a 36% increase between 2009 and 2010 (USDA/FAS/BICO).

Planting seeds remain an important US agricultural export to the Asia Pacific Region. Total exports for planting seed in 2012 were over $386 million USD. (USDA/FAS/BICO).

The Americas: North, Central South
The current domestic market value for the Seed Association of the Americas Region: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Venezuela, Canada, Mexico and the US is estimated at $16.6 billion USD (ISF, 2012). US Exports to the region have been on the rise, from $548 million in 2011 to over $623 million in 2012. (USDA BICO).

In 2012, US seed exports were valued at greater than $20.3million USD, showing a 3% increase from 2011 (USDA/FAS/BICO). It should be noted that the market value increase from 2010 to 2011 was 50%. The market recovered from a 7% decrease in trade between 2009 and 2010.

The value of US planting seed exports to China in 2012 totaled 97,781which is a 2% increase from 2011, but a 150% increase since 2008 (USDA/FAS/BICO Reports). The size of China’s domestic seed market is estimated at $9 billion USD (ISF, 2012), second only to the US, and ranks above France, Brazil and India as the second largest country seed industry in the world.

European Union
US Exports to the European Union (EU) in 2012 totaled $368 million USD. This is an overall increase of 11% since 2011.

US exports to India totaled almost $8.8 million USD in 2012, a 2% decrease from 2011. It should be noted that a 27% increase from 2010 to 2011 was seen in this market. (USDA-FAS BICO) Since 2005 there has been a net increase of exports to this market.

Exports of planting seed from the US to Mexico total over $232 million USD in 2012 (USDA BICO). The total domestic market in Mexico is estimated at $350 million (ISF, 2012). Though exports have decreased by 10% from 2011 to 2012, the US maintains a strong market position accounting for approximately 66% of the market.

Eastern Europe
US Exports to Eastern Europe in 2012 totaled over $32 million USD. This is an overall increase of 39% since 2011 (USDA Bico). The global seed industry marketplace is expected to show major growth in the coming years due to emerging markets including China, India, Brazil and Eastern Europe.

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Priority Issues

The ASTA membership has identified the following priority issues and areas of focus for the US Seed industry regarding trade:

  1. Intellectual Property Protection
    1. Laws
    2. Enforcement
  2. General Seed Legislation (Infrastructure)
  3. Science-based Phytosanitary Requirements
  4. Adventitious Presence (AP) & Low-Level Presence (LLP)
  5. Parallel systems PVP and utility patents
  6. Co-existence of farming systems
  7. Promotion of quality seed
  8. Capacity building for regulators or industry
  9. Development of successful strategic partnerships
  10. Movement of germplasm (ITPGR)
  11. Acceptance of Technology
  12. Seed Applied Technology
  13. General education about seed industry

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USDA Cooperator Programs

ASTA is a USDA Cooperator under the Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) and Market Access Program (MAP). Without the partnership of the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Office of Trade Programs (FAS-OTP) and the receipt of FMD and MAP funding ASTA would not be able to conduct its efforts globally on behalf of the ASTA membership and the US Seed Industry. Read more about the USDA Cooperator Programs.

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USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Offices and Contacts

According to the USDA-FAS website, FAS staffs 96 offices in 75 countries around the world. FAS Foreign Service Officers (FSO) and Locally-Employed Staff (LES) — while not maintaining a physical presence — also monitor and report on the agricultural trade matters of an additional 94 countries. ASTA would not be able to effectively and efficiently conduct our efforts globally without the support of the Foreign Agriculture Service.


North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO)

Comite de Sanidad Vegetal del Cona Sur (COSAVE)

World Trade Organization

International Seed Federation (ISF)
The International Seed Federation represents the interests of the mainstream of the seed industry at a global level through interaction and dialogue with public and private institutions that have an impact on international seed trade.

International Seed Testing Association (ISTA)
Founded in 1924, with the aim to develop and publish standard procedures in the field of seed testing.

International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC)
An international treaty addressing issues of phytosanitary compliance. Also includes publications on seed statistics, news and programs, organized by region and by issue.

OECD Seed Schemes
A web page contains the 2013 edition of the Rules and Regulations of the OECD Seed Schemes.

North American Plant Protection Organization (NAPPO)
Providing a forum for public and private sectors in Canada, the United States and Mexico to collaborate in the development of science-based standards intended to protect agricultural, forest and other plant resources against regulated plant pests, while facilitating trade.

Convention on Biodiversity (CBD)
The Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty to sustain the rich diversity of life on Earth.

Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA)
An organization of member laboratories, including official state, federal, and university seed laboratories across the United States and Canada.

World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
WIPO’s mission is to promote innovation and creativity for the economic, social and cultural development of all countries, through a balanced and effective international intellectual property system.

Union of the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV)
UPOV’s mission is to provide and promote an effective system of plant variety protection, with the aim of encouraging the development of new varieties of plants, for the benefit of society.

Comite de Sanidad Vegetal del Cona Sur (COSAVE)

African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA)

Asociación Semilleros Argentinos-Argentina (ASA)

Asia-Pacific Seed Association (APSA)

Seed Association of the Americas (SAA)

Associação Brasileira de Sementes e Mudas (ABRASEM)-Brazil

European Seed Association (ESA)

National Seed Association of India (NSAI)

Asociación Mexicana de Semilleros (AMSAC)

China National Seed Association (CNSA)

China National Seed Trade Association (CNSTA)