* Company investing heavily in conventional seed business
* $150 mln earmarked for first seed plant in Ukraine
By Charlie Dunmore
BRUSSELS, July 18 Monsanto said on
Thursday it would invest heavily in its European seed business
in the coming years in order to boost sales of its other
products after it abandoned development of genetically modified
crops in the European Union.
The world's largest seed company announced on Wednesday that
it would withdraw all applications to grow new GMO crops in
Europe because deep opposition to the technology was hurting its
On Thursday Monsanto said it could now focus on increasing
sales of its non-GMO seed and other farm inputs, which account
for more than 98 percent of its $1.72 billion annual turnover in
"People have said we are exiting the GMO business in Europe,
but we don't really have a business," Monsanto's President and
Managing Director for Europe, Jose Manuel Madero, told Reuters
in an interview.
"Conventional seeds is the area where we are focusing at
this time in Europe, and we are funding the business in a way
that we haven't done for more than 15 years," he said.
The company is already investing $300 million expanding its
existing seed production facilities in France, Romania, Hungary
and Turkey, and has plans to spend "several hundred million
dollars" more over the next five years, Madero said.
The bulk of that future investment is destined for Ukraine,
where Monsanto expects to have its largest seed production plant
in Europe within five years after earmarking an initial $150
million investment, which could rise to $300 million within
Ukraine is a major global grain producer and is forecast to
export 14.5 million tonnes of maize this year. The country
currently imports around half of the seed it needs to produce
its annual maize crop, but Monsanto said its plant would reduce
that dependence by about a fifth.
The company declined to reveal its revenues in Ukraine, but
said the total area sown with its seeds there doubled between
2012 and 2013, and that it was optimistic that such growth would
"Income per capita continues to increase around the world,
in India and China, and Ukraine is playing a very important role
in supplying those markets in Asia with grain, so we need to
make sure that we are present there," Madero said.
He was more circumspect about the prospects for expansion in
Russia, where Monsanto has been selling its conventional seeds
for several years but currently has no production facilities.
"We are assessing exactly what the future looks like for us
in Russia, and whether some of those several hundred million
dollars are going to go to there or not," he said.
GMO crops are not currently grown in either Russia or
Ukraine, and Monsanto says it has no plans to try to cultivate
the technology there at present.