The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has stressed the need for farmers to have access to high quality inputs at all times, if Nigeria must increase its agricultural productivity.
Mr Ohiara Jatto, the Director, Farm Inputs Support Services (FISS) in the Ministry, said this in Abuja on Friday at the Agro-Input Dealer Certification and Training, organised by the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC).
Jatto said that the role of agro-input dealers was critical in bridging the gap between the up-stream suppliers and the farmer.
“One of the objectives of the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme is to facilitate the development of private sector marketing channels for agricultural inputs.
“Within the last four years, the government supported the private sector in building robust channels for distribution of inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, agro-chemicals, livestock and fingerlings to farmers.
“This led to the emergence of a large army of agro-dealers, estimated between 3,000 and 5,000,“ he said.
Jatto said that majority of the agro-input dealers do not have any formal training on the product they sell, and therefore, could not provide necessary advisory services to the farmers they serve.
He added that these were the reasons why several fake and adulterated fertilisers, seeds, agro-chemicals and other sharp practices were ongoing in the sector today.
“Some of such sharp practices include selling grain as seed, selling fertilisers with short bag weights to farmers.
“With the absence of fertiliser law in the country to control nutrient content, contaminants, bag and container weight, false and misleading claims, we discovered farmers do not get value for their money,” he added.
Jatto, however, said that the Ministry of Agriculture had recently inaugurated the National Fertiliser Technical Committee, charged with the responsibility of following up fertiliser legislation and quality control.
“With the National Agricultural Seed Council in place to ensure registration, licensing and quality control of seeds; NAFDAC is doing the same for agro-chemicals to ensure that sanity returns to agro-inputs sub-sector.
“IFDC, through the Feed the Future Nigeria Agro-Inputs Project, has trained agro-input dealers on product knowledge and distribution of inputs to farmers,” he said.
According to the director, it is expected that the agro-input dealers association will support the regulatory agencies to police their members to ensure they adhere to high quality standards in order to serve farmers effectively.
Also speaking at the training, Mr Saidu Zakari, President, Nigeria Agro-Input Dealers Association, said they were in Abuja for the event of certification of their members after undergoing three days training organised by the IFDC.
Zakari said the project started in 2002 and was still ongoing after 14 years.
“I am glad that members of the trade association have been trained to be better market people.