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.
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.”
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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