Syngenta to halt Canadian cereal development operations

Seed and ag chem giant Syngenta plans to wrap up a decade of cereal seed research and development work in Canada by the end of the year.

The company announced Wednesday it will discontinue its Canadian cereal seed research and development program effective at the end of calendar 2019, affecting five Syngenta Canada staff positions.

Nancy Tout, Syngenta Canada’s head of research and development, said the company’s Canadian arm will still “maintain a strong commitment to the Canadian cereals sector.”

“We will do this through a combination of our existing cereal seed portfolio, as well as several recently approved varieties that will be commercialized by Syngenta over the next several years, and through our leading crop protection and Seedcare portfolios,” she said in a release.

“We will also continue to evaluate and, as appropriate, participate in licensing arrangements, as a means to bring new cereal varieties to Canadian growers.”

Syngenta’s current cereal seed portfolio in Western Canada includes six Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) wheat varieties, SY087 general purpose (CWGP) wheat, and Sirish and AAC Synergy two-row barleys.

Formed in 2000 from the ag divisions of Novartis and AstraZeneca, then taken over by ChemChina in 2017, Syngenta has been involved in development of wheat and barley varieties globally and has billed itself as the world’s largest wheat breeder.

But the company didn’t step directly into development of Syngenta-branded wheat in the Canadian market until 2010, with a team operating out of its Morden, Man. facility. Before then it distributed its cereals through companies such as Proven Seed (now an arm of Nutrien) and Richardson International.

Syngenta Canada president Trevor Heck, in Wednesday’s release, emphasized the company’s exit from Canadian cereal R+D “is a business decision and is not related to the performance of the cereal seed research and development team members.”

The company, he said, “will work with (affected staff and their families) through this transition, providing them with comprehensive support.”

The multi-purpose research sites now involved in Syngenta Canada’s cereals work “will continue to function and operate as they do now,” conducting and overseeing work related to other crops and Syngenta product lines, a company spokesperson said via email.

Guelph-based Syngenta Canada’s research assets in the country today include four research farms, various satellite research stations and two “state-of-the-art” labs.

Heck said Wednesday that Syngenta still plans “to grow our overall business in Canada moving forward, in both the seed and crop protection areas, and will allocate our resources and investments to support that growth.”

Syngenta in 2017 announced it would also step out of the Canadian hybrid canola seed business, having directly entered that Prairie market in 2013. Beyond its Prairie wheats and barleys, Syngenta’s branded Canadian seed portfolio is today devoted to corn and soybean varieties. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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