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May 18, 2011

Monsanto establishes new seed plant in South Africa

The largest and most technologically advanced maize seed processing plant in Africa has been commissioned in Lichtenburg, South Africa, by Monsanto.

The plant, known as Thobonile (Setswana for "cream of the crop") and costing 150 million rand, was officially opened by Kobus Lindeque, managing director of Monsanto for sub-Sahara Africa, "to provide farmers with the best quality genetic seed", the company said on April 26.

The plant would be in full production from May 1.

The plant covers 220 metres by 36 metres under one roof and can store 140,000 bags of about 21kg of seed each, both genetically modified (GM) and non-GM, which will be disposed of within four months after harvesting. Cold storage of 4,000 square metres can store 40,000 bags below 15 degrees Celsius.

Monsanto said the cold storage was mainly for carry-over stock.

He added that about 300,000 bags of about 10kg GM seed with 35,000 kernels each was being exported to the Philippines, Europe, Egypt and elsewhere.

The plant comprises the latest grain drying and laboratory research facility.

"The drying facility can handle 320 tons of wet cobs a day. The leaves are removed on site and the maize is dried on the cobs to the required temperature and then shelled on site," the company stated.

In the laboratory, a variety of scientific tests can be carried out, including eight levels of DNA tests for the correct traits, seed purity and germination vigour.

According to Lindeque, Monsanto plans to establish a similar plant in Zambia.

"Monsanto's priority is to provide people with food. Food starts with quality seed. Ten years ago the average maize yield in SA was just over two tons per hectare. Today the average yield is more than four tons per hectare, thanks to GM technology."


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