De Groot en Slot, an onion seed producer from the Netherlands and Agriterra have spent ten years working towards an independent onion seed production chain in the landlocked West African country of Niger. The project has been crowned with success and they are embarking on a fresh collaboration, this time in Ethiopia. With more attention to a commercial spin-off.
Ten years sounds like a long time for a cooperative effort but Martin Slot, Breeding & Production director at De Groot en Slot, thinks nothing of it. His company, located in the North Holland province, is joint world leader in onion seeds with its partner Bejo Zaden. ‘Don’t forget’, Slot argues, ‘that onions take two years to grow. In the first year, you plant the seeds. The next year you harvest the seeds from the onions you have now produced. In fact, we only had a few cycles to share our knowledge and train the people – and we have succeeded. Onion productivity has gone up fourfold and onion seed productivity is eight times higher than when we started. Yes, we’re pretty proud of that.’
Since 2005, De Groot en Slot and Agriterra have been supporting farmers’ cooperatives in Niger in their efforts to create their own high quality onion seeds. It is an important business in a country where onions are a significant part of the agricultural sector. Niger exports two-thirds of its onion harvest, and it constitutes one of its few non-mineral sources of income.
The Niger project was the result of the need the company felt to support a developing country by sharing its know-how. A second project is still running: with its colleagues Rijk Zwaan and Bejo Zaden, De Groot en Slot is providing seeds for various school gardens in Niger.
Now that Niger’s onion seed production can run itself, the company has started to look for a new collaborative effort. A choice has been made: Ethiopia. A visit to the country will provide the information De Groot en Slot needs to assess whether the project Agriterra has selected can be successful. Martin Slot explains that the new project’s concept is the same as in Niger: ‘Agriterra assures the organization, we contribute our expertise in growing the crop. The difference is that for us Ethiopia represents an interesting commercial perspective. To be sure, the project is, once again, born from our sense of corporate social responsibility. But with time we will be looking into developing a business case.’
Breeding & Production director at De Groot en Slot