This survey aimed at clarifying the present status of demand and supply of corn seed. It also considered recent progress in corn breeding by the public sector in Asian countries. Mutual sharing of this information is expected to help policy makers and corn breeders take effective action in the future. The survey covered four countries, namely, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan.
In all four countries surveyed, the demand for feed grains has been increasing over the last decade, due to the growth of the domestic livestock industry. This higher demand has chiefly been met with an increase in imports. As a result, self-sufficiency in feed corn is down to only a few percent in Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Even in the Philippines, a major corn producer, 20% of feed corn is imported.
Corn is also an important human food in the Philippines. About one-fifth of the population depends on `white corn' as a staple grain. Over 60% of the seed planted for grain corn in the Philippines is supplied by traditional varieties. This is because costly hybrid seed does not ensure a higher yield or a higher profit on most farms in the Philippines, where corn production tends to be high-risk. Crops may suffer from water deficit and other stresses, typhoons are common, and many farmers cannot afford enough pesticides, mineral fertilizers and other inputs.
In spite of these constraints, the use of hybrid seeds has gradually been increasing in the Philippines over the past ten years, reaching 14% in 1999. Most of these hybrid seeds are supplied by private commercial companies. The companies develop and provide hybrids in close cooperation with national research institutes. Thus, corn seed research in the Philippines has been carried out in complementary mode by the Government and the private sector. Government institutes are concentrating on open-pollinated varieties. Genetic materials developed by the public sector, including the parental inbreds, are shared with the private sector. In Japan, Korea and Taiwan, government research institutes involved in breeding corn seem to have changed their focus from grain corn to forage corn.
The demand for forage corn has also been increasing during the last decade, especially in Japan and Korea. Breeding corn specifically for use as forage began in the 1990s. Some single-cross hybrids such as Nasuhomare (Japan), Kwanganok (Korea) and Taiwan No. 19 (Taiwan) have been released over the past deade, and their planted area is now increasing. The level of self-sufficiency in seeds for forage corn, however, remains low ( Japan 2-3%, Korea 30 %).
The advanced state of corn research and corn seed production in Western countries, especially by multinational companies, has established the dominance of imported seeds, even for forage corn. However, these foreign hybrids have some important defects under the conditions found in many Asian countries.
As far as grain corn used as feed is concerned, it seems very difficult for Asian countries to compete with multinational companies which produce corn on a large scale, using very advanced technology. There is still a possibility, however, that Asian countries might increase their self-sufficiency in seed of corn grown for forage, since each country has its own location-specific constraints which can partly be overcome by breeding resistant corn varieties. It has been proved that some local hybrid varieties perform better than imported ones.
Close cooperation between the public sector and the private sector, as in the case of the Philippines, might be another way of providing Asian corn producers with better and cheaper seeds.
Countries covered by the survey: Japan, Korea, Philippines and Taiwan ROC
Members of the survey team were:
Dr. Hisaaki Daido, National Grassland Research Institute, Japan
Dr. Seon-Woo Cha, National Crop Experiment Station, Korea
Dr. Artemio M. Salazar, Dr. Achilles C. Costales and Dr. Fe Loreli L. Cajagas, University of the Philippines at Los Banos
Dr. Yih-Ching Huang, National Taiwan University
Figure 1 Corn Grown As Forage Crop
Figure 2 Forage Corn Ready for Harvest. the Grains Are Still Soft and Milky