Monsanto sign outside of company's headquarters© DDP USA/REX Shutterstock

US biotech giant Monsanto is to axe 2,600 jobs after a sharp decline in seed sales.

The company, which manufactures genetically modified (GM) seeds, recorded a $495m (£322m) loss for the fourth quarter.

The job cuts, which account for about 12% of the firm’s entire employee base, will be made as part of a restructuring plan over the next 18-14 months.

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It estimates the cuts will save the company between $275-$300m (£179-£195m) by 2017.

Monsanto said low maize prices and falling farm incomes had heaped pressure on sales of its GM maize seeds, which have fallen 5.1% to $598m (£390m) this year.

Soya sales fell 19% to  $162m (£106m). And sales of Roundup (glyphosate) weedkiller also slumped by about 12% to $1.1bn (£720m).

“When you narrow the lens to the next 12 months, the industry continues to face a challenging macro environment and we’ve moderated our outlook,” said Hugh Grant, Monsanto’s chief executive, in a post-earnings conference call.

Following the announcement, Monsanto shares fell by more than 4% on Wednesday (7 October), but later stabilised.

In August, Monsanto abandoned a $46m (£30bn) takeover bid to acquire Swiss rival agricultural company Syngenta.

According to its website, Monsanto employs about 22,000 workers around the world.