Today the AFA Bolivia Fellows traveled to the Semexa seed facility to learn about Bolivian seed production. Semexa has 20% market share of soybean seed sales in Bolivia. Semexa not only produces their own seed, but also leases the use of their plant to other companies for processing and bagging. Once bagged, Semexa stores the seeds in a climate controlled facility. At Semexa, they take pride in their genetic lineup. Unlike many U.S. companies, Semexa produces all their own traits in-house. Semexa employs 40 people in research and development. The cost of the soybean seed is $600-900/ ton, which equates to approximately $22.50 per bag (cheaper than many U.S. seed companies). They also produce corn, wheat and chia seeds.
Mauricio Acosta, president of the Association of Seed Producers in Bolivia shared about seed regulations. Intellectual property in Bolivia is similar to the U.S. in the fact that there are strict laws to protect seed companies and breeders. Farmers cannot save seed to replant here in Bolivia in most cases. However, if a producer farms less than 240 hectares (500 acres) they do not have to pay for the traits in their seed. Some small producers can also save some seed if they do the proper documentation and allow inspectors to come audit and check seed quality. If a farmer is suspected to have illegally saved seed without doing the proper paperwork, inspectors come in and seize the illegal seed and the producer has a fine and possibly a felony charge. In these cases, producers are often guilty until proven innocent.
Bolivian farmers grow on average 2.47 million acres of soybeans annually. Bolivians have the unique ability to grow two crops of soybeans in one season in certain parts of Bolivia.
After our visit at Semexa, we all had an adventure at the local market. We were able to purchase items made here to take home. We also enjoyed some Bolivian cuisne at a local restaurant.
We get the unique opportunity to fly from Santa Cruz to LaPaz at 3 AM tomorrow morning and then to Uyuni. What a way to bring in the New Year!
P.S. Our internet connection may be spotty between Jan. 1 and Jan. 6. If you don’t hear from us everyday, that’s why.