A decision support procedure for matching seed supply and demand using climate forecasts

Photo credit – East-West Seed and ISSD Uganda

Seed supply organizations often have a good understanding of farmers’ overall varietal needs. But farmer demand for different varieties, for example early- or late-maturing cereal varieties, is not static. It often varies between years and seasons, for example, with seasonal climate.

Yet for seed suppliers, this demand is hard to foresee. In consequence, the frequent mismatch between scheduled seed supply and varying farmer demand often leads to sub-optimal outcomes for both farmers and seed suppliers. High-demand varieties sell out, and carry-over of not-distributed seed has a cost for seed suppliers.

Today, free online seasonal climate forecasts can give an indication of rainfall quantities up to six months before the planting season. This information can be used by seed suppliers to better anticipate farmers’ seed demand at species and variety level. Seed distribution can then be adapted, for example, by shipping higher amounts of early-maturing varieties into regions expected to face a rather dry season. Because seasonal climate forecasts are no perfect predictions, however, being prepared for any type of season is important. Seed scenario planning implies preparing alternative seed distribution plans, for example, for either a dry, average, or rain-abundant season.

Together with private seed company SeedCo, Ltd., the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT has developed a systematic, yet simple and heuristic procedure to support seed supply planning. Seed scenario planning involves a data-driven analysis of the likely seed demand under alternative seasonal climates (dry/average/wet), and taking informed decisions about seed supply management on that basis. A workshop guide and a powerpoint slideshow, to be used by decision-makers at seed supply organizations, give detailed guidance on the concept and all steps of undertaking seed scenario planning.

In this decision-support procedure, a ready-made Microsoft Excel workbook helps with the analysis of past trends in seed demand and extrapolates predictions about upcoming seed demand based on an up-to-date seasonal climate forecast. As a next step, the workshop guide supports facilitated decision-making to collectively decide on adaptations in the seed supply management. For example, which varieties should be packaged and shipped with priority. By exploring the concept of seed scenario planning in a playful way, seed supply organizations may also recognize other opportunities for systematically preparing for alternative seasonal climates.

The workshop is meant to take about 3-4 hours and involves decision-makers at seed companies, or public or private organizations that distribute seed to farmers, such as extension services or NGOs. Applying the procedure can help to better serve farmers’ seed needs under climate variability.


Seasonal scenario planning for matching seed supply and demand: Final report

Probabilistic scenario planning in agriculture is a procedure that uses available data and expert estimates to inform decision-making across the food system in a way that minimizes economic risk. This report summarizes the sustained application of the project outputs. It includes a synthesis of a project reflection event and of the overall project, highlighting the main findings.

Seasonal scenario planning for matching seed supply and demand: Workshop format

This document describes a workshop procedure for seasonal seed scenario planning. It is guided by a powerpoint presentation and revolves around jointly using the MS Excel tool for scenario planning, and leveraging informed decision-making on seed supply.

Seasonal scenario planning for matching seed supply and demand: Workshop slides

These slides are meant to be used jointly with the “seasonal scenario planning: workshop format” and the MS Excel tool. The presentation describes the different concepts involved in scenario planning, including examples.

Seasonal scenario planning for matching seed supply and demand: MS Excel decision support tool

This is an MS Excel tool for seasonal scenario planning. This tool correlates historical seasonal rainfall with seed sales. Using expected rainfall forecasts the tool gives an estimate of expected seed seales in the coming season. The tool should be introduced to decsion makers in a workshop, presented jointly with “seasonal scenario planning: worshop format” and “seasonal scenario planning: workshop slides”