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‘Nigeria’s low investment in seeds undermines food security’

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Seeds

Seed is said to be inevitable in the efforts to ensure food security and stakeholders have expressed worry over inadequate quality seeds in the country.

Nigeria has an estimated national demand of over 350,000 metric tons of certified seeds every year, according to the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), but it produces less than quarter of that national demand.

The majority of smallholder farmers do not have access to quality seeds in most of the grains and legumes, a situation many experts said has made the country’s average yield far below global standard.

Ms Chika Okoh, Federal Partnership Facilitator of the DFID Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn – Engaged Citizens (PERL-ECP) said after a critical analysis of the country’s agriculture, it could be concluded that seed, which is very important to good yield, was being overshadowed by fertilizer.

To this end, the programme organised a two-day strategy session for partners advocating for farmers’ increased access to quality seeds at the federal and state levels in Kaduna State recently.

The programme brought together different farmers’ groups that expressed concerns regarding the many challenges facing the seed subsector in the country.

Some experts like Aghan Daniel of the African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) believe that at the end of the 2018 rain-fed planting season, less than 20% of smallholder farmers in Africa would have planted clean certified seeds.

Mr. Daniel stressed that seed companies must show commitment to end food insecurity in Africa.

He also opined that the “Bottlenecks that bedevil the sector could, for example, be removed if political leaders kept their words during their meeting in June last year where there was renewed commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture.

Despite 157 seed companies in 2018, according to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Nigeria Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), producing or trading seeds is still very limited in the country.

For decades, Nigerian farmers use grains from the market to plant, making yields low, a situation the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, acknowledged.

Chief Ogbeh said, “The seed system of many food and industrial crops are collapsing due to inadequate quantities and poorly coordinated systems.”

“Addressing the challenges of making available quality early generation seeds in the seed value chain is critical to achieving the goals of the Green Alternative Agenda of this administration to attain self-sufficiency in our local staples, he said.”

Low productivity in some grains, legumes very worrisome

The 2017 National Report for the country’s agricultural performance survey by the Federal Department of Agriculture and National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), ABU, Zaria shows how poor the nation is doing in some of these crops compared to global average.

Take sorghum for instance, the total estimated hectares of land cultivated in the 2017 season were 5.6 million, producing 6.7 million metric tonnes, an average yield of 1.19 tonnes per hectare.

Maize, however, did better from a cultivated land area of 5.9 million hectares in the 2017 season, producing an output of 9.1 million metric tonnes with an average yield of 1.6 to 2.5 tonnes per hectare.

Millet was cultivated in an estimated land area of 1.8 million hectares, which produced 1.4 million tons. The yield was 0.8 ton per hectare.

For soybeans, the total area used for the cultivation of the crop was estimated at 493,950 hectares producing about 494,000 tonnes with an average of 1 ton per hectare.

These crops yield performance ranges in between 4 to 7 tonnes per hectare in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The IITA 2016 report on transforming African agriculture through research noted that “Although access to quality seed of improved maize varieties has been of the upswing in recent years, the production and supply of sufficient quantities of early generation seeds (breeder and foundation seeds) still pose a challenge particularly to emerging and small-scale seed companies in West Africa that rely heavily on varieties bred by National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) and international agricultural research centers.

NASC and the way forward

THE Director-General of NASC, Dr. Phillip Ojo, stated that “it is in a bid to find solution to the challenges bedevilling the production and delivery of early generation seeds in the national seed system” that NASC has taken a number of steps.

The agency stressed that the problem in the sector requires urgent attention.

Strengthening research institutes

ALMOST all the 16 research institutes, colleges of agriculture and universities of agriculture are doing very little regarding seed development due to poor funding and budgetary allocation. This calls for attention.


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