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Economic assessment of potato seed supply agreements

The Mondial seed potato variety is one of the most popular cultivars in South Africa. The original breeder of the varietal, HZPC Holland B.V., and the local grower of the seed, Wesgrow Potatoes, were referred by the Competition Commission to the Competition Tribunal for foreclosing rivals’ access to the Mondial genetic material and saleable seed potato, allegedly through the exclusive agreements with one another and by abusing their market dominance.

Genesis was appointed by Adams and Adams Attorneys on behalf of HZPC and Wesgrow to assess the complaint and subsequent referral by the commission.

Our work involved carrying out a market definition exercise that correctly characterised Mondial as one of a multitude of seed-potato varietals available to rival seed growers. A market-share assessment also suggested that it was unlikely that Mondial was a dominant varietal in terms of the Competition Act.

Finally, the majority of our work focused on assessing the competitive effects of the clients’ agreements between one another and customers. We found these agreements prevented free-riding by rivals that, if allowed, would impose severe risks on the Wesgrow business model.

The Commission ultimately settled with the parties in 2019.

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