The increase in R&D performed by global agricultural input industries (see "Private Industry Investing Heavily, and Globally, in Research To Improve Agricultural Productivity" in the June 2012 issue of Amber Waves) has coincided with significant changes to the structure of these industries. The largest firms have increased their market shares and account for most of the investment in (and ownership of) new innovations in these industries. Implications of market concentration in the U.S. seed industry were addressed earlier in Amber Waves and in other ERS research (see suggested readings). New ERS data allow a closer look into global market concentration across a number of agricultural input industries.

Market concentration increasing

Since the 1990s, global market concentration (the share of global industry sales earned by the largest firms) has increased in the crop seed/biotechnology, agricultural chemical, animal health, animal breeding, and farm machinery industries - all of which invest heavily in agricultural research. By 2009, the largest four firms in each of these industries accounted for at least 50 percent of global market sales. Market concentration was particularly high in animal genetics and breeding, where the four-firm concentration ratio reached 56 percent in 2006/07 (the latest year for which data are available). Growth in global market concentration over 1994-2009 was most rapid in the crop seed industry, where the market share of the four largest firms more than doubled from 21 to 54 percent. The top eight firms in all five input sectors had between a 61- and 75-percent share of global market sales by 2009.

Market concentration factos vary

Firms increase their market share either by expanding their sales faster than the industry average or by acquiring or merging with other firms in the industry. Firms can expand their sales faster than others in the industry by offering better products or services (often an outgrowth of larger R&D investments), improving their marketing ability, or offering lower prices (often through economies of scale). The leading input firms in 2010 had faster sales growth than the industry average, but a significant amount of that growth came from acquisitions of other firms.