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.
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.
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.
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.
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.