Stakeholders in the agricultural sector insist that Nigeria’s quest for self reliance in food production and general food security attainment cannot be achieved without a deliberate effort towards revamping the country’s seed system. CALEB ONWE reports
The country’s food security has been confronted with profound challenges mostly happening in the unstable agric sector of the economy. However, the on-going insecurity, coupled with the on-going Russia-Ukraine crisis, did not help matters in the quest to achieving food sufficiency and food production in the country as the crises have been responsible for increase in food inflation and prices of food prices in the country. As things are falling apart in the country’s agric sector amidst macro-economic challenges, it becomes imperative that stakeholders in the agric sector must find solutions for Nigeria to achieve sustainable food production in the wake of the new order. To make an apt and consensual move, the agric stakeholders believe that prompt availability of quality seeds for farmers to plant variety of crops will guarantee increase food production and food security.
However, their argument is predicated on the facts that a successful journey to an increased food production, begins by taking the right steps, which is development of good quality seeds. Over the years, stakeholders have expressed concern that efforts to transform the agricultural sector in the country without adequate attention to its seed industry, would remain counter productive.
Seed industry players have identified certain areas that both government’s regulatory agencies and private seed companies must give priority attention to in order to achieve catalyst in the country’s agric sector. They said that for a vibrant seed industry to emerge and be sustained, seed planning and its entire development processes must be adequately taken care of. This perspective was re-emphasised during the just concluded workshop and capacity building on seed planning for industry stakeholders using the regional electronic model platform, which held in Abuja. They stressed that seed planning was very vital as it helps to determine demands and forecasting which are major components that seed producers need. Specifically, the Director-General of National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo, while reaffirming government’s commitment to regulatory framework that will revamp the country’s seed industry, he urged stakeholders to equally adopt the right approaches to seed development. Ojo advocated accurate information that will guide both seed producers and farmers in producing and accessing quality seed for improved agricultural productivity. He particularly pointed out that “lack of information on the accurate estimation of seed demands often puts seed enterprises and breeder seeds producing units in disarray.” An Internationally acclaimed seed breeder and production consultant, Steve Van Der who was in Abuja for the capacity building, noted that Nigeria, like many other African countries, have always experienced seed shortages, because proper attention was not giving to seed planning and forecasting. He said: “Africa is constantly facing shortages because the reality in Africa today is that there is a mis-match between demand and supply for several reasons. “In most of the African countries so far, I could not find concrete evidence of a conscientious effort from government or from the seed industry to really understand what is the real demand and how the current supply matches with that demand. It just does not happen,” he added. According to the National Seed Roadmap Report, a wellfunctioning PVP system encourages in-country breeding activities, attracts foreign companies to introduce high-quality improved varieties, knowing that others cannot easily reproduce and take advantage of their investments in variety development.
PVP law implementation
Another factor which stakeholders said is vital to achieving a robust seed industry in Nigeria is full implementation of the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) law. The new seed law passed by the National Assembly, gives breeders intellectual property over a new plant variety with exclusive rights to commercialise seeds and propagate material. They said that the law was capable of incentivising both national and multinational investments into the seed sector. Those who understand the spirit and letters of the new legislation have also recommended that all stakeholders should put in considerable effort in the development and operationalisation of a functional PVP system as well as working out an appropriate enforcement system. According to them, “a sectorwide understanding and ownership is crucial for PVP to result in the availability of better varieties for smallholder farmers.”
Revised national seed policy
The agric stakeholders also urged government to demonstrate commitment to the revised seed policy, designed to guide activities in the industry for five years, beginning from 2021-2025. To this demand, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, said government will have no other choice than to uphold it, as it was a game changer in the industry. He said: “I am aware that this policy document represents the concerted efforts of NASC and stakeholders who have made valuable inputs and contributions into this document, towards ensuring that farmers have unrestricted access to best genetics to enhance their productivity.”
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria needs a vibrant seed industry that will guarantee food security in the country. It has also been established that many countries within the West African countries depend on Nigeria for their seed needs. So, it is imperative to be more intentional in all aspects of development in the seed industry, and no components should be given less attention this period.