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Oil palm seed distribution

Durand-Gasselin T., Cochard B.. 2005. OCL. Oléagineux Corps gras Lipides, 12 (2) : p. 148-153.

For a tropical plant, the oil palm commodity chain has the peculiarity of possessing a major seed production sector for reasons that are primarily genetic. This seed sector has numerous original aspects. Breeders are also propagators and usually also distribute their seeds. Oil palm seeds are semi-recalcitrant: they display pseudo-dormancy. Achieving seed germination is difficult and requires lengthy treatments and special installations. This restriction greatly influences seed distribution and the role of the different stakeholders in the commodity chain. It was only once it had been discovered how the "sh" gene functioned, which controls shell thickness, and when it became necessary to produce "tenera" seeds derived from exclusively "dura x pisifera" crosses, that a true seed market developed. In addition it is difficult to organize seed distribution to smallholders. This is partly due to difficulties that the profession, or a State-run organization, has in controlling middlemen networks, and partly to the absence of any protective systems (UPOV, plant breeder certificate, etc.) that generally oblige breeders to preserve and propagate parents in their own installations. In fact there are major inequalities in the access to seeds between agroindustry and smallholders. Another peculiarity of the oil palm seed market is the virtually total absence of guarantees for buyers: the quality of the research conducted by breeders, the seed production strategies necessary for transferring genetic progress, and the technical quality of production. The only guarantee today comes from the relations of confidence established year after year between breeders/distributors and growers. In this fields, research can lead to some proposals: molecular biology offers some interesting prospects for certifying seed quality and social science develop effective communication methods.

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