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To invest or not to invest? Information is the key for Multinationals

January 12, 2020

Molly Brown, PhD

Chief Science Officer

Investment in agriculture value chains in African contexts lags significantly behind that of other regions. Even though 65% of all cultivatable arable land is in Africa, the international business community still underinvests in developing, distributing and selling the agricultural inputs needed for Africa to increase its productivity. According to a recent McKinsey report, to realize Africa’s full agricultural potential, the region ‘will need eight times more fertilizer, six times more improved seed, at least $8 billion of investment in basic storage (not including cold-chain investments for horticulture or animal products), and as much as $65 billion in irrigation’.

Investments this large need significant confidence that the resources invested from across the global agriculture value chain will be rewarded. This confidence can only come from high quality, relevant and comparable information on market size produced every year.

Cropped Area for Market Size Estimation
6th Grain’s annual cultivated area maps provide specific, 10m resolution information for four crops across select countries. These maps allow businesses to identify regions with high densities of cultivated fields and agricultural activities, even in countries with very poor publicly available agricultural statistics. High quality maps allow companies selling hybrid seeds and other inputs to ensure that sufficient supply of seeds is available for purchase. These maps also ensure that there are appropriate sales staff and agronomist expertise available to help farmers use them effectively.

Regional information that is comparable across space and time for each crop allows for the commitment of real investment and commercial effort in distributing agricultural inputs that are locally appropriate.

Corporate Investments
6th Grain partner Syngenta was able to identify a much higher density of maize fields around Lumbashi in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) than in the Copperbelt region of Zambia where it had extensive warehouses, distribution centers and sales personnel. The much higher sales than expected in this northern Zambia region was explained by the large demand for their hybrid maize seeds across the border in Katanga.

Once this large community of farmers was identified and quantified with independent satellite remote sensing classification models, Syngenta was able to secure the investment necessary to set up new distribution centers, retail outlets, agronomists, and demonstration plots in the DRC to provide direct services to these growers. This is the first step to supporting and engaging with growers to raise their productivity to grow more food for a growing population.

This crop classification map shows a high density of maize fields in 2019 around Lumbashi, DRC.
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