DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred said Wednesday it bought a majority share in South Africa's Pannar Seed Limited, expanding Pioneer's reach in the African market.

Pioneer, the second-biggest seed company in the United States after Monsanto Co., did not disclose terms of the deal. The purchase is subject to approval by the South African Competition Commission and other countries' regulatory agencies.

Pioneer said the partnership would help it develop genetically engineered crops specifically tailored to different regions of Africa. The deal is expected to close in early 2011 if approved.

Pioneer, a subsidiary of Wilmington, Del., chemical maker DuPont Co., has been locked in competition with Monsanto to win a bigger share in the global market for genetically engineered crops. Pioneer has stumbled in its recent attempts to develop a herbcide-resistant strain of corn and soybean crops that could compete with Monsanto's popular Roundup Ready varieties.

Pioneer President Paul Schickler said African crop acreage is a growth opportunity for seed companies because of the global scramble to grow enough crops to meet growing demand for food and biofuels. Because so much of the region has missed out on yield-improving technology, the upside to biotech development is huge, he said.

"The potential is there," Schickler said in an interview. "We can boost the yield levels up."

Copyright 2010 The AP.

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