Stakeholders in the agricultural sector insist that Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency in food production and the achievement of overall food security cannot be achieved without a deliberate effort to revamp the country’s seed system. CALEB ONWE Reports
The country’s food security has faced profound challenges that occur mainly in the unstable agricultural sector of the economy. However, persistent insecurity, coupled with the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian crisis, has not helped matters in the quest for food self-sufficiency and food production in the country, as the crises have been responsible for the increase in food inflation and food prices. food prices in the country. As things crumble in the country’s agricultural sector amid macro-economic challenges, it becomes imperative for stakeholders in the agricultural sector to find solutions for Nigeria to achieve sustainable food production in the wake of the new order. . To act appropriately and consensually, agricultural actors believe that the rapid availability of quality seeds enabling farmers to plant a variety of crops will ensure increased food production and food security.
However, their argument is based on the fact that a successful journey to increased food production starts with taking the right steps, namely the development of good quality seeds. Over the years, stakeholders have expressed concern that efforts to transform the country’s agricultural sector without adequate attention to its seed industry will remain counterproductive.
Seed industry stakeholders have identified some areas where government regulators and private seed companies need to give priority attention in order to create an enabler in the country’s agricultural sector. They stated that for a vibrant seed industry to emerge and be sustainable, seed planning and all of its development processes must be adequately supported. This perspective was reaffirmed during the just concluded workshop and capacity building on seed planning for industry stakeholders using the regional e-models platform, which s is held in Abuja. They pointed out that seed planning is very important as it helps to determine demands and forecasts which are the main things that seed growers need. Specifically, the Chief Executive of the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo, while reaffirming the government’s commitment to a regulatory framework that will revamp the country’s seed industry, urged stakeholders to also adopt the right approaches to seed development. Ojo advocated for accurate information that will guide both seed growers and farmers in producing and accessing quality seed for improved agricultural productivity. He particularly pointed out that “the lack of information on the accurate estimation of seed demands often puts seed companies and breeding seed production units in disarray”. An internationally renowned seed breeder and production consultant, Steve Van Der, who was in Abuja for capacity building, noted that Nigeria, like many other African countries, has historically experienced seed shortages as attention Particular attention was not given to seed planning and forecasting. He said, “Africa is constantly facing shortages because the reality in Africa today is that there is a mismatch between demand and supply for several reasons. “So far, in most African countries, I have not found concrete evidence of a conscientious effort by the government or the seed industry to really understand what the real demand is and how the current supply corresponds to this request. It just doesn’t happen,” he added. According to the National Seed Roadmap report, a well-functioning PVP system encourages breeding activities in the country, attracts foreign companies to introduce improved varieties of high quality, knowing that others cannot easily replicate and leverage their investments in variety development.
Implementation of the PVP law
Another factor that stakeholders say is critical to achieving a robust seed industry in Nigeria is the full implementation of the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act. The new seed law passed by the National Assembly grants breeders intellectual property over a new plant variety with exclusive rights to market seeds and propagating material. They said the law was able to incentivize national and multinational investments in the seed sector. Those who understand the spirit and the letters of the new legislation have also recommended that all stakeholders put considerable effort into the development and operationalization of a functioning POV system as well as the development of a appropriate application. According to them, “sector-wide understanding and ownership is essential for the PVP to result in the availability of better varieties for smallholder farmers.”
Revised National Seed Policy
Agricultural stakeholders have also urged the government to demonstrate its commitment to the revised seed policy, designed to guide industry activities for five years, starting from 2021-2025. On this request, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, said the government would have no choice but to maintain it as it was a game changer in the industry. He said: “I am aware that this policy document represents the concerted efforts of the NASC and stakeholders who have made valuable contributions and contributions to this document, to ensure that farmers have unrestricted access to the best genetics. to improve their productivity.
It is undeniable that Nigeria needs a vibrant seed industry that will ensure food security in the country. It has also been established that many West African countries depend on Nigeria for their seed needs. It is therefore imperative to be more intentional in all aspects of seed industry development, and no component should receive less attention this time.