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Biotechnology: Gateway to Nigeria’s food sufficiency

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Biotechnology: Gateway to Nigeria’s food sufficiency

When the Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) was introduced into Nigeria, it faced stiff opposition because it was not part of the nation’s farming culture. But Nigeria embraces the adoption of bio-technology as conventional agriculture to boost food security, productivity. CALEB ONWE writes

 

 

The tortuous journey to creating food security through bio-technology has been undulating, but it is a sacrifice worth making by stakeholders who have been involved in the processes. Over the years, farmers’ productivity and profitability have continued to decline in Nigeria and other developing countries, due to several factors, ranging from frequent and deadly pest attacks on conventional crops, droughts, and climate change.

So, no news can be more cheering to them than the emergence of Bio-technology (Bt) or Genetically Modified crops with the capabilities to mitigate the adverse effects the attacks.

Genetic Modification of crops, though, a new technology, is said to have provided the most advanced way for selecting desirable traits in crops, and proven surest assurance to quick solutions to the problems of low productivity which farmers are faced with globally.

Scientists have a convergence of opinion that Biotech crops have enhanced genes that could withstand the onslaught of pesticides, drought and even the adverse effects of climate change that is swiftly changing narratives of agriculture in Nigeria and that of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Apart from Biotech cotton, maize and cowpea in focus, because they are at the fringe of commercialisation in Nigeria, scientists argue that there are empirical evidence-based results that biotechnology has also been found so helpful in the development of wheat, as well as other staple crops and even in cassava that is bio-fortified with additional nutrients.

Bt as farmers’ antidote

More cheering to smallholder farmers in the Northern region of Nigeria is the fact that biotechnology has come to the rescue. With use of water, efficient crops that can with stand the perennial challenge of drought.

The same goes to the farmers who are faced with the excruciating pains arising from expenditure in using herbicides for the control of weeds in farms. The herbicides-resistant by crops have also come to the rescue.

Currently, farmers in Nigeria are awaiting the commercialization of these all-important Bt crops that have been on confined field trials, due to the restrictions imposed on their development by the regulatory agencies, though, in line with global health, environmental and safety standard.

The regulations were said to be for the purpose of ascertaining the suitability or otherwise of these staple crops for both human and animal consumption. Scientists have also provided scientific evidence that the crops are not only safe but have nutritional values that will help solve the problem of hunger and starvation in Nigeria and other parts of Africa.

Values of Bt crops

The values that scientists have proven to be found in Biotech cotton was recently acknowledged by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, when he enthused that the only hope of resuscitating the comatose textile industry in Nigeria lies in the potential of Bt cotton.

The minister expressed his conviction that the biotech cotton will not only create jobs when the textile industry is back on its feet, but will also increase the income of farmers.

Scientists described the biotechnology solution to cotton production in Nigeria, as the only miracle needed to change the ugly narratives of a sector that once thrived, but neglected to suffer a woeful downward plummet up to abysmal five per cent in production output in recent years.

Reports revealed that cots production in Nigeria used to be above 70,000 metric tonnes per annum, but now, it has declined due to lack of quality seeds and the dreaded cotton bollworm.Findings also showed that low cotton production in the country affected adversely the textile industry with an existing asset base of N57 billion left to rot away. More worrisome is even the report that Nigeria is losing up to $6.5 billion export opportunities in cotton annually.

Biotech cotton with insect resistant gene is believed to have the potential of curing all the malaise plaguing the cotton sub-sector of agriculture when it is fully commercialised in the country. Cowpea and maize production are put at 47 million metric tonnes and eight million metric tonnes respectively annually in Nigeria.

The potential of these two important staple foods were also said to be on the path of progressive productivity when the biotechnologically improved varieties are commercialised. While the Bt Cowpea is said to be Maruca-Resistant and also fortified with some ingredients that enhances its nutritional values, the Bt Maize is coming under the Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) project.

The Bt maize varieties with stack tolerance and insect resistance, have also been proved by scientists to more yielding potential than the conventional varieties.

Researchers’ endorsement of Bt crops

After the canonisation of biosafety law in Nigeria in April 2015, which crowned the efforts of bio-technology promoters, who with gifts of foresight started the regulatory process of biotechnology in early 1990s, there seems to be a brighter future for farmers, as genetically modified crops have the potential of great impact on Nigerian farmers and generally the society.

Even indigenous scientists in Nigeria who have contributed immensely to the development of biotechnology have continued to insist that this agricultural innovation remains the companion that Nigeria farmers need in the journey to creating a food sufficient- society.

One of such scientists that have given incontrovertible proofs about the impact GM crops will make on the ever growing population in Nigeria and Africa, is Professor Umar Ibrahim Abubakar, the Executive Director, Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.

He stated that with the diminishing yields of conventional crops coupled with subsistence farming system that is still prevalent in Nigeria and many other African countries, food shortage and its attendant malnutrition was inevitable. He specifically explained that GM crops will not only improve productivity of agricultural products, but will efficiently create food and nutritional security.

He said: “Obviously, one of the most important impacts of GM crops is food and nutrition security. You know globally one of the problems facing the world today is food insecurity. Many children in several families go hungry and so on. So, with the release of the GM crops varieties, food production will be increased and inevitably they’ll be cheaper, affordable, and create more access to food. “With GM crops, farmers spray less.

That means you have less cost of production and your profitability will increase and definitely that will increase the income of the farmers and that would create employment to the farmers and inevitably improve the economy of the country”, he noted. Prof. Mohammed Ishiyaku, a plant breeder and Pod-borer Resistant Cowpea Project Principal Investigator at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, has also made a case for the full commercialisation of these Biotech crops, stating that Nigerian farmers cannot continue to apply old method in solving new problems. According to him, the new problems facing average farmers in Nigeria is how to overcome insects, drought and climate change as well as achieve increased crop yields.

The solution to these problems he said, lies in biotechnology. “Over the years, we have witnessed a situation where farmers tried so hard to increase their harvest but the more they tried, the less result they get.

But science has availed us the opportunity to change the situation. We have succeeded in last few years in introducing a gene into the cowpea to make it resistant to the insect that have devastated it”, he noted.

Last line

However, as the world switch over from analogue to digital system by celebrating the advent of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT), it is imperative to say that Nigerian agriculture needs to move urgently and embrace science and technology in solving the numerous challenges that are depleting farmers’ output and threatening food security.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Ceola Eberhart

    November 13, 2019 at 5:37 am

    very cool

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Kebbi farmers: ‘Strange’ diseases destroying our onion farms

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Kebbi farmers: ‘Strange’ diseases destroying our onion farms

The National Association of Onions Farmers, in Kebbi State, has said that it has lost over N1 billion worth of onions to two strange diseases affecting farms and storage facilities in the state.

The Chairman of the association, Bello Uba, told the News Agency of Nigeria in Birnin Kebbi on Wednesday that no fewer than 20,000 farmers were affected.

“We have lost over N1 billion to two strange and unknown diseases that emerged and affected the seeds we used as well as the shells of the already ripened onions that we put in our local storage facilities.

“We have never witnessed such kind of diseases in decades as no fewer than 20,000 farmers are now affected by the bizarre scourge,” he said.

According to him, the farmers believe that the two diseases, coined Zazzalau and Raba, have no remedy for now.

The chairman, however, said the association had not reported the outbreak to relevant government agencies for intervention but would do so immediately.

The Acting Permanent Secretary, state Ministry of Agriculture, Muhammad Lawal, said the ministry was not aware of the outbreak.

“We have no information on the outbreak of any strange disease. We don’t have any information in our records on the disease.

“I urge farmers to write to their local government councils of any outbreak of a strange disease for onward transmission to us and we assure that we are going to take necessary action,” Lawal said.

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Malaysia to cut export duties for crude palm oil in 2020

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Malaysia to cut export duties for crude palm oil in 2020

Malaysia will reduce duties on exports of crude palm oil, its first review since the current tax rate was imposed in 2013, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng said on Monday.

Under the new tax regime, the export duty rate will be set at 3% when prices are between 2,250 ringgit ($538.54) and 2,400 ringgit per tonne, down from the current duty of 4.5%, reports Reuters.

The export duty rate will go up to 4.5% at the next price tier of 2,401 ringgit to 2,550 ringgit, and rise at 0.5% increments to a maximum of 8% should prices reach over 3,450 ringgit per tonne.

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Border closure: Contending with spiraling prices of goods

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Border closure: Contending with spiraling prices of goods

Following the continued closure of land borders over smuggling of weapons and agricultural produce, the multiplier effects are already being felt by Nigerians in their daily lives, as prices of some food items have skyrocketed. Taiwo Hassan reports

 

 

 

As a matter of urgency, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has urged the Federal Government to re-open its land borders around Seme, as it hampers the implementation of free trade movement within the ECOWAS sub-region.

Already, the effect has crippled many business activities around the border towns amid tales of sudden increase in prices of food stuff.   

Part of the reasons for the closure was to control smuggling of foreign rice as a way of boosting presence of the locally milled ones in the market.

No doubt, Seme border is strategic for ECOWAS in terms of implementation of free trade movement within the region.

Despite this, the Federal Government is concerned with the economic effects smuggling has done to the national economy and local investors.

Prices of food items

Findings in states where Nigeria shares borders with neighbouring countries show that prices of rice, poultry products, brands of vegetable oil, sugar, beans and even fairly used cloths have increased by between 10 and 30 per cent.

For instance, a bag of 50 kg foreign rice, which sold for between N13,000 and N15,000 before the closure now goes for N16,000, N18,000 and N20, 000 depending on the brand in many towns and cities across the country.

Also, there is a sharp increase in imported flour due to restriction of import from Cameroon.

A transporter, Bala Jumallah, explained that it was difficult to transport flour from Yola due to bad roads and broken bridges; hence bakers opted for a cheaper alternative from Cameroonian side of the border, which is closer.

Similarly, a fruit dealer, Muhammad Bello, said the restriction had prevented export of orange into Cameroon, thereby causing drop in price.

He said the price of a sack of orange crashed from N9000 to N7000 as supply surpassed its demand.

Adamawa, being one of the three front line states in the war against Boko Haram, had been placed under a form of border restriction since 2015, but renewed control in the last few weeks has caused public outcry at the border.

But the partial closure has heightened smuggling around Lagos border communities too.

The smugglers have now resorted to using waterways to bring contraband items such as rice, frozen poultry products and fairly used clothes, shoes and bags into the country.

Despite the increase in smuggling activities, prices of some basic food items have skyrocketed, with traders and consumers complaining of limited stocks.

Frozen poultry is the most affected in Lagos as a kilogramme of frozen chicken, which before now sold for N1,200, now costs N1,600, while a kilogramme of frozen turkey now sells for N1,700.

A trader at Alaba Rago, a major market in Lagos, Tawa Ibrahim, said that the border closure was affecting his business.

She said: “Lake Rice (locally produced rice) would have been a better alternative for us, but we are not getting it to buy. Even the volume of okra needed to feed this nation cannot be produced in Nigeria.

“We rely so much on Cotonou for okra. That is why its price has also shot up since the border was closed. A big basket of okra, which sold for N4,000 or N5,000, is now N8,000.”

Further findings showed that in Kebbi, the closure of borders with Niger and Benin Republics was causing economic hardship to people around the border areas of Dole Kaina, Lolo, Kamba and Bachaka as some of the border town residents, particularly farmers and merchants, also complained.

While lamenting the situation, a farmer, Abdullah Salalah, said: “The situation is becoming unbearable. As you are aware, our people are into farming and they cross the border to trade. Since they closed the borders in Lolo, we cannot do our farming and we cannot trade. The prices of commodities are increasing by the day.”

He added that the situation was becoming more pathetic because people have family, cultural and trade ties with people in Benin and Niger republics and because of the border closure people in Kebbi, Niger and Benin Republic are suffering.

Pressure mounts on FG

Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Moustapha Cisse Lo, at the opening of the 2nd Extra Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament in Monrovia, Liberia, this week, appealed to the Federal Government to reopen its closed borders for free trade movement. 

Cisse Lo explained that the border closure posed a threat to the implementation of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons at a time when Africa needed to intensify efforts for effective abolition of barriers within the communities.

Cisse Lo, however, urged the government to find a permanent solution to the challenge of smuggling, rather than closing the borders, which was not a lasting solution.

“In the same vein, the closure of the Nigerian borders with Benin more than a month ago and Niger recently is a hindrance to the achievement of the community’s main objective, which is to achieve the creation of a prosperous, borderless West African region where peace and harmony prevail.

“The ECOWAS Parliament calls for compliance with community provisions and, thus calls for the reopening of borders and a coordinated fight against smuggling in the region.”

“The root causes of this recurrent situation must be studied with a view to finding a permanent solution.” he added.

FG’s stance

Recall that the Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Retired Col. Hameed Ali, had insisted that Nigeria’s borders would remain closed until the country and its neighbours agree on existing ECOWAS protocol on movement.

Ali said government would no longer condone smugglers taking over the country’s economy. 

“But there is no specific time for opening the borders. However, if they agree with us tomorrow on the existing laws, then we sign and update the existing protocol of transit, that’s all.

“And we are looking forward to meeting with them and there are moves to sit with them to make them understand why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to achieve by doing what we are doing,” Ali said.

When asked about the consequences of closing the borders, he said, “if you check our website, you will see the seizures and interception we’ve made.”

He said that by closing the borders, Nigeria was able to completely block the importation of contraband.

“We are able to completely block the influxes of illicit goods, and most important, stopped the exportation of petroleum product which is the biggest problem we have,” Ali said.

According to him, through the measure, the importation of foreign rice has stopped and the market for local varieties has risen. We’ve also stopped the influx of rice and our rice is now selling.

“Even those selling garri that have been abandoned because there was cheap rice are making brisk business.

“This is because people are now buying garri as food. So, I think the economy is now picking up and we are grateful for that,” he said.

Last line

With the current scenario, many Nigerians are yet to see and feel the positive effects of the situation, as it has only led to lamentations and agonies all over the country with increasing prices of foodstuff and some other items in the market.

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Egypt won’t import rice this financial year – Minister

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Egypt won’t import rice this financial year – Minister

Egypt’s supply minister said on Sunday the country had enough strategic rice reserves to last until February 15 and there would be no need for imports in the current financial year.

Egypt’s financial year 2019-2020 ends on June 30.

Ali Moselhy told Reuters local rice production was sufficient to last until then and there would be no need for further imports.

Once a rice exporter, Egypt reduced its rice cultivation in an effort to conserve Nile river resources as Ethiopia builds a $4 billion dam upstream that Cairo fears could impact its water supply.

The move turned it from an exporter to an importer in 2018.

Still, in March Egypt’s agriculture ministry said it would grow about 1.1 million acres of rice in the 2019 season, up from 800,000 acres in 2018, in an effort to reduce the country’s import bill.

Rice is a heavily discounted staple in Egypt’s subsidy program, under which the state purchases foodstuffs that are offered to subsidy card holders.

Moselhy on Sunday reassured the public that the price of rice would remain stable.

The agriculture ministry has not released local production figures for the current season yet.

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Egypt won’t import rice this financial year – Minister

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Egypt won’t import rice this financial year – Minister

Egypt’s supply minister said on Sunday the country had enough strategic rice reserves to last until February 15 and there would be no need for imports in the current financial year.

Egypt’s financial year 2019-2020 ends on June 30.

Ali Moselhy told Reuters local rice production was sufficient to last until then and there would be no need for further imports.

Once a rice exporter, Egypt reduced its rice cultivation in an effort to conserve Nile river resources as Ethiopia builds a $4 billion dam upstream that Cairo fears could impact its water supply.

The move turned it from an exporter to an importer in 2018.

Still, in March Egypt’s agriculture ministry said it would grow about 1.1 million acres of rice in the 2019 season, up from 800,000 acres in 2018, in an effort to reduce the country’s import bill.

Rice is a heavily discounted staple in Egypt’s subsidy program, under which the state purchases foodstuffs that are offered to subsidy card holders.

Moselhy on Sunday reassured the public that the price of rice would remain stable.

The agriculture ministry has not released local production figures for the current season yet.

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Agric group announces merger, invests $12m

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Agric group announces merger, invests $12m

Farmcrowdy Group, Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform, has disclosed that about $12 million have been invested in its agriculture value chain business to boost food security and availability in the country.

The company also announced a unification merger of its sister companies in Farmgate Africa and Agricsquare as one entity in order to create a bigger Farmcrowdy in line with its business strategy.    

Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Farmcrowdy, Onyeka Akumah, made these known while briefing journalists on major updates of the company’s activities in Lagos recently.

Akumah explained that the $12 million agricultural investment by the company had allowed it to venture into different parts of agriculture value chain businesses and also empowered many local farmers to boost their productivity.

He stated that as a company, FarmCrowdy operates in 14 states across Nigeria and has signed up over 25,000 farmers into its programme, who have cultivated over 16,000 acres of farmland across the country.

According to him, the cultivated 16,000 acres of farmlands cut across maize, rice, soybeans, cassava, gingers plantation, Livestock and poultry farming.

He said: “We have invested about $12 million through the platform to put into the farms and that allows us to cultivate 16,000 acres of farmlands across maize, rice, soybeans, cassava, ginger. Also, our livestock system sits around 2,000 cows, while we’ve raised 2.2 million chickens in our poultry farms.”

Speaking on the merger and restructuring of the firm,he said: “This is a very significant step for Farmcrowdy as it will allow the combined entity to have a stronger foothold in the agriculture value chain, by dealing with core crop farming processes, production and trading side of commodities as well as marketing media for agriculture.”

Akumah stressed further that the combined companies would now be referred to as Farmcrowdy, and with the announcement, all sponsorship options available from both platforms (Farmcrowdy and Farmgate Africa) will now reflect on the combined Farmcrowdy platform, sponsorship options such as; beef processing, ginger farms, cattle farms, Poultry farms, etc, previously only available via Farmgate Africa and Farmcrowdy will now be open to sponsorship on the Farmcrowdy platform to sponsors from both entities.

According to him, Agricsquare will however continue to be run as a product of Farmcrowdy – the largest community of agriculture enthusiasts in the country with over 20,000 people engaging daily to discuss agriculture-related topics.

He disclosed that the Managing Director of Farmgate Africa, Kenneth Obiajulu, would oversee the trading aspect of the new entity while the Chief Operating Officer, Temitope Omotolani, would continue to oversee the production side (crop production, feedlot production, etc) of the company.

Akumah added further that the process had always been in the plan to attract more talent, expand Farmcrowdy’s reach in the agriculture value chain and provide more options for sponsors on its platform.

“The new Farmcrowdy will now be looking for new partnerships to continue to grow more crops as it targets expansion into four new states while increasing its current supply of over 50 cows fit for slaughter per day to a supply of 100 cows per day by the end of the year made available to top retailers, hotels, and eateries across the country,” he stated.

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Pesticides control as catalyst for Nigeria’s cocoa boost

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Pesticides control as catalyst for Nigeria’s cocoa boost

The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) has released a list of pesticides that should not be used for cocoa production in a bid to accelerate the growth of Nigeria’s cocoa. Taiwo Hassan writes

 

The importance of applying pesticides and herbicides on planting crops has been there for ages in Nigeria because of infested diseases that feast on crops during harvests.
Particularly, many farmers have acquainted themselves to the use of chemicals during planting of crops so as not to suffer post-harvests loss, which has caused huge losses to the country’s agricultural fortunes and economy in general.
Indeed, the application of these agricultural chemicals- pesticides and herbicides by farmers on crops have been abused in the country since government’s agency such as Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service have failed in its oversight function to regulate the use of chemicals.
For instance, last year, CRIN reported that high cost of chemicals importation into the country forced about 16 cocoa processing firms to shutdown their factories out of the 20 firms, leaving just only four firms in business.
The major reason for the shutdown in cocoa production by these processors was attributed to the cost of buying chemicals at the international market with foreign exchange (forex), which was too high for them since they cannot cope with the forex challenge.
“The chemicals are coming in at an exchange rate of N360 to one dollar. None of those chemicals are produced in Nigeria. Now don’t forget that many Nigerians don’t consume cocoa,” the Institute said.
“Many Nigerians don’t eat cocoa products. If you produce a hundred tonnes and only eight per cent of that is consumed locally, that means your local farmers and factories are not producing for local consumption”.

Banning pesticides
However, in order to tame the use of chemicals, especially in the country’s cocoa sector, CRIN said it has released a list of pesticides and herbicides that should not be used for cocoa production in the country.
The institute, which has research mandate on cocoa, kola, coffee, cashew and tea, announced this in its bulletin recently.
According to the institute, these insecticides include Acephate, Amitraz, Aldrin, Azinphos-methyl, Carbaryl, Carbofuran, Carbosulfan, Cartap, Terbufos and Cyhexatin. Others are Dichlorvos(DDVP), Dieldrin, Dioxacarb and Endosulfan.
It said fungicides such as Benomyl, Captafol, Hexaconazole, Pyrifenox, Triadimefon, Tridamorph, Zineb, Copper-Sulphate, Carbide and fumigants such as Allethrin, Fenitrothion, Isoprocarb, Permethrin, Resmethrin and Tetramethrin also should not be used.
The institute said that herbicides such as Ametryn, Atrazine, Diuron, Fomesafen, Methyl arsenic acid and 2,4, 5-T had also been banned.
It said, “For fungicides, we have approved Ridomil Gold 66WP with Cuprous Oxide + Metalaxyl-M ingredient, to tackle black pod, Ultimax Plus, with Metalaxyl+Copper Hydroxide to tackle black pod.
“There is Funguran-OH with Copper Hydroxide ingredient to tackle black pod, copper nordox 75 wp, with cuprous oxide, champ DP with Copper Hydroxide, Kocide 101 with Cuprous Hydroxide.
“We have Cabrio Duo with Pyraclostrobin + Dimethomorph, Red force with Copper Oxide + Metalaxyl-m, Pergado with Metalaxyl-m+ Mandipropamid ingredient, all to tackle black pod.
“For insecticides, we have Actara 25 WG with Thiamethoxam, Esiom 150 SL with Acetamiprid+ Cypermethrin, Proteus 170 O-tec with Acetamiprid+ Cypermethrin ingredient, all to tackle Mirid.
“For herbicides, there are touch-down with Glyphosate, clear weeds with glyphosate and round up with glyphosate ingredients, all to tackle weed.
“Then for fumigants, we have Phostoxin with Aluminum Phosphide for storage pests.”

Challenges
Apparently, this is not the best of times for the country’s cocoa industry despite the role being played by the Federal Government to promote the development of the country’s non-oil sector after the slump in the price of crude oil at the international market.
Nigeria’s cocoa industry is still facing adverse challenges amid the uncertainty in the sector; the low production output target at international scene, state of neglects and lack of agricultural inputs for farming.
Following these myriad of challenges, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been at the vanguard of re-positioning thr country’s cocoa industry but, their efforts have not yielded the desired results to turn around the fortunes in the sector
Regrettably, in spite of the abundant cocoa in the country, Nigeria is occupying the seventh position among cocoa producers in the world, according to the International Cocoa Organisation, due to her failure to meet its 500,000 metric tons (mt) of processed cocoa production target.
Following the country’s struggling to meet her cocoa production target, this has consequently resulted to huge lose in revenue running into $1 billion yearly.

Farmers’ woes
Speaking with the New Telegraph in an interview in Lagos, the President of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Saiyani Riman, lamented that his members are experiencing qualms in production of cocoa.
He listed unfavourable weather conditions, lack of support from the government as well as the use of fake chemicals by farmers as major factors that are affecting cocoa production in the country.
Riman also identified economic woes orchestrated by Federal Government’s policy summersaults and other farm droughts as other reasons for the inadequacy in attaining growth among cocoa producers in the world.

Last line
With the banning of the cocoa chemicals by the sector’s regulator, stakeholders believe that the procurement of fake chemicals would reduce drastically and enhance productivity.

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AGRA: Towards sustaining Nigeria’s seed devt

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AGRA: Towards sustaining Nigeria’s seed devt

Following the report by the International Seed Federation (ISF) that Nigeria’s seed sector is not yet viable in seed growth, the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has said that it will be committing about $2 million to fund the production of quality early generation seeds for farmers across the country. Taiwo Hassan looks at the merits

 

 

As the rain-fed farming season for this year begins, there is nothing very important to Nigerian farmers than having access to quality and right variety of seeds that will ensure that their expectations for enhanced yields and bumper harvest is not truncated during the harvesting period.
In fact, at this period, merchant farmers understand the role of quality seeds in boosting farm productivity and therefore do attach high premium to it.
However, sourcing for quality seeds in the Nigeria’s agric sector is also a venture that takes the greatest part of their resources and investments following substandard seeds in circulation, which in one way ticked their farm business revenue projection.

Nigeria’s seed industry
No doubt, there are lots of challenges facing the country’s seed sector. But one of the biggest challenges has been that of fake seeds in circulation, which has contributed negatively to the country’s quest to achieve food productivity and security.
Amid the multiplier effect of this fake seeds on agriculture, the Federal Government has been parleying with notable renowned seeds countries in the world to explore areas of collaboration for the development of the agricultural sector in anticipation to changing the country from being a food importer to a food exporter.
Besides, it is no gainsaying that the country’s economy has lost fortunes of foreign exchange to the importation of various seeds from abroad into the country for farmers’ use amid seed deficit in the country.
In one of the fora in Abuja, the immediate past minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audi Ogbeh bemoaned the threat the menace portends to farmers and food security and once declared that he was a victim of fake seeds.
Statistics from the office of Nigeria’s Seed Council- National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) showed that over 70 per cent of people who have no business with seeds jump into the business and sell junk to farmers without getting certified by the Council in a bid to make sharp money.
In fact, the menace of fake seeds in circulation has been a concern for the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari. This has led to the clarion call that the National Assembly should pass the amended bill on the agricultural seed industry for President Buhari to assent in a order to arrest this menace threatening food production and security.
No doubt, farmers nationwide have been complaining against the supply of low quality seeds by government funded agencies and international donor organisations, which they said was hampering the national food security.

AGRA’s impact
Following the Federal Government’s clarion call on seed development in Nigeria, the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) disclosed that it will be committing about $2 million to fund the production of quality early generation seeds for farmers across the country.
Its Country Manager, AGRA, Kehinde Makinde, made this disclosure in Abuja recently at a meeting with the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) in collaboration with AGRA on the way forward to Nigeria’s seed development.
Speaking at the increasing production and dissemination of quality Early Generation Seeds (EGS), Makinde said that the support to NASC and other seed companies would improve income and food security in the country.
He said that the support AGRA would be giving to the seed council would ensure a better regulation of seed companies, as well as provide support for the available EGS.
According to him, with the project of detecting the circulation of fake seeds, farmers will determine the source of seed they buy.
“If you look at the seed Industry, there is a need for transparency,” he said. “Farmers need to know who are producing seeds to ensure that they get quality seeds at the end of the day.
“So, what we are doing here is to bring visibility to the farmers and transparency to different actors so that people can trace the quality of seeds bought and be assured that their money is not wasted.
“So if you do not have a clear mechanism that provides transparency and visibility, a lot of people will bring in fake seeds and such will affect our productivity in the country.
“Financially, AGRA will be providing about two million dollars for NASC and two other seed.”
The Country Manager added that the project initiative was a consortium of partners known as Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa, with support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID and Rockefeller.

Nigeria’s seed deficit
In its latest 2019 Access to Seed Index report by Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation, it was revealed that Nigeria has around N130 billion ($450 million) in terms of seed deficit in production.
The international seed rating agency also stated that Nigeria’s seed production stood at 800,000 metric tonnes with production unit at 400,000 metric tonnes.
The above figures mean that the Federal Government and the private sector have to intensify seed production in a bid to meet national demand.
Particularly, the survey showed that Africa represents two per cent of the global seed production, with global seed business valued at $50 billion.

Is Nigeria a visible seed nation?
Speaking on Nigeria’s position in the world seed countries, the Secretary General of the International Seed Federation (ISF), Michael Keller explained that Nigeria was yet a viable member of the global Federation.
Keller, who was in Nigeria for the first time to assess the state of the country’s seed industry and how Nigeria can also benefits from the international seed federation, explained that it was regrettably that the country is lagging behind in the global seed trade, which has continued to grow steadily in all fronts.
When asked whether Nigeria is a visible seed country, Keller said: “No. Let me be very open with you; Nigeria is not visible because we do not have any members from Nigeria. Therefore I came here to discover Seed Connect Africa, which is a wonderful event, lots of seed companies here but also public, and politicians. There are some dynamics in Nigeria and there has to be important discussions to have independence in terms of food security and sustainable agriculture perhaps.
Besides, he said, “It’s clear there is a lot of will, openness and interest from the Nigerian side to attract more seed companies from around the world but I will like to insist that it should not only be foreign companies coming to Nigeria.
“What we are looking for, is to create in the country, a vibrant seed sector, which includes local seed companies, farmers cooperatives, which also include opportunities for other companies to come here to settle down here to start seed breeding programmes or production.”

Last line
Agric stakeholders are optimistic that the $2 million fund set aside for seed production in the country by AGRA would accelerate development in the sector. However, despite this move, fake seeds are still threat to national food productivity and security because they are still in circulation. Consequently, there is a need for NASS to pass the seed bill.

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Farmers chide lawmakers over non-passage of key bills

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Farmers chide lawmakers over non-passage of key bills

Agriculture stakeholders have bemoaned the inability of the 8th National Assembly lawmakers to pass into law key agricultural bills that would have spurred the sector into productivity and security. Taiwo Hassan writes

 

 

Currently, the major preoccupation of the National Assembly is the election of the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and their deputies who are expected to lead the 9th National Assembly members for another four years.
Unfortunately, these lawmakers have winded up their tenure without passing some key agricultural bills expected to change the fortunes of the Nigeria’s agriculture.
Consequently, the non-passage of those key bills, including the fertilizer quality control bill and the seed bill are yet to get presidential assent, while a third, the warehouse regulatory bill is yet to be passed by the National Assembly. These are already causing uncertainty among agric stakeholders in the country.
The reason for this uncertainty is not far-fetched, because those bills are critical to making farmers enjoy high yields on agriculture produce as well as create job opportunities.

Fake seed and fertilizer in circulation
Moreover, it is no longer news that the country’s agriculture is currently embroiled in adulterated fertilizer and seeds in circulation, which is resulting to low yields of harvesting among Nigerian farmers who have invested huge amount of money during the planting season.
Particularly, the adverse effect of adulterated fertilizer and seeds in farming cannot be quantified in all ramifications because it brews food shortage and crisis in the country, which ultimately cause famine in the land.
For instance, harvesting of crops is basically an opportunity for a farmer to reap bountifully the outcome of his farm produce.
But currently for some farmers in the country, the joy of making more profits during this harvesting period has turned soar because the fertilizers that were distributed to them are adulterated and this has caused great damage to the crops they planted.
Particularly, the issue of fake fertilizer distribution in the country has been a critical challenge for the three tiers of government and this is threatening the country’s goal of achieving self-sufficiency in food production.

Stakeholders’ views
Experts have insisted that it is critical for the lawmakers in the National Assembly to expedite actions for passage of these key agric bills because of their importance to the development and growth of the country’s agric sector.
These bills, according to them, are meant to ensure that Nigerian farmers reap the fruit of their labour, especially on the hard work they put in to ensure availability of food for the populace. So having autonomy over the control and regulation of one’s farm will bring liberty and mass production of food from farmers, the experts had stated.
In addition, they explained that it would also promote adequate manpower, disease resistant varieties and unadulterated fertilizers nationwide.
Besides, they added that it would lead to increased soil fertility, sustainable profit, improved storage facilities and also aid the availability of agricultural produce all year round.
For instance, the seed bill, promoted by the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), will provide an opportunity to align Nigerian seeds system with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) seed regulatory framework.
It will also ensure regulation of foreign-bred varieties before they are released into the Nigerian market.
The fertilizer bill will also protect the interest of farmers against nutrient deficiencies, adulteration and short weight. It will equally safeguard the interest of fertilizer enterprises.
In his own submission, the Chairman, National Fertilizer Technical Committee, Prof. Victor Chiedu, raised the alarm over proliferation of adulterated fertilizers in the country.
Chiedu, in a phone conversation with New Telegraph, traced the source of fertilizer adulteration to middle men whom, he said, specialise in mixing fertilizer with granulated clay or other harmful substances, which are repackaged into popular fertilizer brands and sold to farmers.
He pleaded with the Senate to pass the bill criminalizing adulterated fertilizer into law, which prescribed minimum of five years jail term for offenders.
House of Representatives had passed the bill, according to him, while Senate consideration is being awaited.
But he pointed out that it was unfortunate that the 8th National Assembly had completed its tenure without the passage of this critical bill into law.
Chiedu, who doubles as Special Adviser to the former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, said the trend if not checked with effective law as deterrent, poses massive risk to food supply.
“We are making strong appeal to the Senate of the ninth National Assembly to pass this bill together with the Seed Content Bill,” he said. “The law specifies maximum of five years imprisonment for anyone caught adulterating fertilizer but it must be passed and signed into law by Mr. President to be effective. We need this law very urgent to deter people from committing this heinous crime.
“The Seed Element Bill, is equally very important because without good, viable seedlings, the food outputs is threatened.”
Mary Ishaya, a farmer, said the benefits of the bills have not been explained to farmers. She said a lot of vegetables are produced by farmers and they get spoilt due to poor storage facilities.
“Since I grew up, I have never seen a warehouse for agric goods,” she said.
Ishaya, however, said there is a need for the bills to be passed quickly.
She said fertilizers are expensive, as farmers no longer have access to subsidised ones.
Ishaya disclosed that farmers have resolved to use organic fertilizers because they are cheaper “and do not destroy the soil. “We also want to have access to credit,” she said.
A fertilizer expert, Ishaka Buba, said the fertilizer bill will help ensure quality outputs by farmers.
He said many industries produce substandard products. “There is need for the bill so that the product can be regulated,” he said.
Buba lamented that farmers are helpless, as the manufacturers are cheating them.
A member of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Feyi Ajayi, said the bills are important for the economic development of the country.
Ajayi said many farmers put in a lot of efforts but they harvest little or nothing.
“Some fertilizers damage the soil,” she said. “Even after production they (farmers) lack storage capacity.”
Ms. Ajayi said NESG will ensure that the bills are passed into law and implemented.
Similarly, the Managing Director/CEO Nigeria Incentives Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture Lending (NIRSAL), Aliyu Abdulhameed, made the same position over the bill passage.
“From our point of view in NIRSAL, the problem will be the fertilizer industry itself; it is not question of manufacturer,” Abdulhameed said. “It’s the downstream supply chain that is unstructured, not controlled and regulated.
“The farmer is there at one end of the chain, the manufacturer or importer is on the other end of the chain. What happens between the farmers and the manufactures, the logistics system has to be controlled; the quality control parameters have to be applied even during goods in transit.”
Last line
Given the status quo on the passage of these key agric bills in the National Assembly, all eyes will be on the ninth NASS, as a matter of urgency, pass these bills into law to enhance food supply nationwide.

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Tackling Nigeria’s huge seeds gap

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Tackling Nigeria’s huge seeds gap

Latest access to seed index 2019 released by Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation revealed that Nigeria has about N130 billion in seeds deficit. However, the Federal Government says it is planning to collaborate with the Government of the Netherlands on improved seeds/seedlings in a bid to close the gap. Taiwo Hassan writes

 

 

The role of seeds/seedlings in boosting food productivity in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised in all ramifications. The contribution of seeds production towards achieving national seeds demand in Nigeria’s agriculture has been at the front burner of past governments and the present one.
But the challenge the country’s agriculture has faced in recent time is that of deficit in seeds availability in the country arising from low quality seeds in circulation.
Consequently, the inability of low quality seeds in circulation prompted the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify seed production in a bid to achieve sustainability for food production and security.
Consequently, the present administration is already collaborating with key European countries, especially The Netherlands to address the problem of inaccessibility and lack of quality seedling in the country.
Having seed challenge in Nigeria’s agriculture is bound to result to low yield harvests for farmers in terms of their farm cultivation.
Also, the present regime has called upon the private sector to join in the crusade by issuing licenced to about 158 seed companies to commence production of quality seeds in a bid to boost agriculture in addition to the 156 already existing licences.
However, the federal government hinted that it was planning to collaborate with The Netherlands government in the areas of improved seeds, horticulture, aquaculture, poultry and nutrition in a bid to change the country from being a food importer to a food exporter.

Fake seeds
Speaking on the effect of fake seeds on Nigeria’s agriculture, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh decried the threat which the menace portends to farmers and food security in the country, starting: “I am a victim of fake seeds.”
He noted : “over 70 per cent of people who have no business with seeds jump into the business and sell junks to farmers without getting certified by the Seed Council- National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC).
“We are going to open extension offices in every local government to monitor the quality of seeds being supplied to farmers. We shall also be compelling agro companies to sell their seeds to authorized dealers. Farmers will be told if you buy seed from anybody else aside the authorized dealers, don’t blame us if you buy fake seeds from them.
“And if they buy from authorised dealers and it turns out to be adulterated, report them to us and we will get the police to arrest them.”
From the position of the minister, it is unequivocally clear that the challenge of the menace of fake seed peddling in the market remains one of the major threats to the food security drive of the present administration.

Survey
For the most part, open-pollinated varieties still dominate across the region, in contrast with Eastern Africa and South Asia. The exception is maize, for which hybrid varieties are more commonly available.
In addition, the research showed that for almost half (48 per cent) of the crops, the most recent variety is older than five years, with only a fifth (21 per cent) having a variety less than three years.
It stated the lack of newly developed varieties seriously impacts the resilience to a changing climate and emerging disease and pests, which reduces yields.
Compared to a dozen of companies active in Nigeria and Senegal, the study said only one company is active in each of Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
“Our study shows the potential of homegrown seed companies,” Ido Verhagen, executive director, Access to Seed Index said.
“However, most operate only in their home markets, which causes geographic imbalances in seed sector development.”
Besides, he said this also means that capacity building activities offered by companies only reach farmers in a handful of countries, which limits the adoption of new technologies by farmers in overlooked countries.
He said in the study that the relevance of access to seeds and plant breeding should not be underestimated.
“The number of undernourished people in the world reached an estimated 821 million in 2017 – it’s rising,” he said. “Climate change and weather extremes have been identified as a major reason for the increase. The seed industry has a vital role to play in helping farmers to adapt to climatic challenges while simultaneously raising production levels.”

Value seeds top ranking
Nigeria-based value seeds topped the rankings in new research on seed companies operating in Western and Central Africa, according to the Access to Seeds Index 2019.
However, the overall picture is one of international and African seed companies falling short in delivering quality seed and new varieties to smallholder farmers. This limits the potential to address food security, nutrition and climate resilience, according to a new study by the Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation.
The study pointed out that there was a growing number of seed companies active in the region, both homegrown and international, stating that less than half of the 23 companies researched conduct plant breeding in Western and Central Africa. Consequently, this limits the release of new varieties adapted to the region, and also explained the high number of varieties that are older than five years offered in company portfolios.
The Access to Seeds Index 2019, the Western and Central Africa ranked value seeds number one. Like most of the other companies from the region, it operates exclusively in Nigeria.
It stands out for its maize and rice ‘value kits’, all-in-one input packages tailored for smallholders. Also, it provides capacity building activities that specifically target women and next-generation farmers.

Seed production
Verhagen explained that Nigeria’s seed production stood at 800,000 metric tonnes, while production unit was 400,000 metric tonnes.
He also said the study showed the continent represents two per cent of the global seed production, with global seed business valued at $50 billion.

Last line
Consequently, lack of quality seedling in Nigeria have taken huge toll on the economy and agriculture at large, prompting widespread of fake seeds in circulation.

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