By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
The National Agricultural Seeds Council, NASC, Wednesday, assured farmers in the country of accessing 81, 000 metric tonnes of certified seeds for 20202 planting season.
This was disclosed by the Director-General, NASC, Dr. Philip Ojo, in his address during a media briefing via Zoom, while speaking on what the Council is doing to ensure that seed activities are sustained and promoted even in the midst of the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, in order for food production to continue and be sustained.
According to Ojo the industry is preparing to push the 81, 000 of certified seeds which include rice, maize, sorghum, soya bean, cowpea, millet, groundnut, wheat, sesame, and potato to the market, companies, as farmers prepare to go to their fields to plant in order to produce adequate quantities of seeds for the next cropping season.
He said: “Today as I speak with you, the industry has available at the disposal of accredited seed companies across the country about 81,000 metric tons of certified seeds of rice, maize, sorghum, soya bean, cowpea, millet, groundnut, wheat, sesame and potato that are ready for deployment and purchase by farmers for the production of food and raw materials for Nigerians.
“We commend the efforts of our Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to ensure that agricultural stakeholders can now move about and conduct their businesses without hindrance. With the support, cooperation, and understanding of the law enforcement agencies, this ministerial intervention will help the agribusiness community greatly.
“The current situation has brought to the fore in a more pronounced way the importance of Agriculture to our sustainability as a nation and the huge responsibility placed on the farmers across the globe has come out more clearly.
“The urgent need to replace depleted food stock as a result of the massive purchase and consumption is now staring us all in the face and we can only achieve this using high-quality seeds.
“The Seed Council will, therefore, be working with various stakeholders to implement various coping actions which will help the sector to continue to function even in the midst of the crisis.”
The NASC boss also highlighted planned actions to ensure farmers access seeds, which include: Structuring the trade of seed and agro-inputs in designated markets and on specific days while complying with social distancing directions of relevant agencies of government at both local, state and federal levels by using a decentralized model for organizing the markets that allows quality seed and agro-inputs to be transported close to farmers, and thus reduce the distance that farmers need to travel to access inputs; Create seed sector task forces at federal, state and local government levels to review regularly the interstate movement of essential agricultural goods and services and provide guidance on measures to be taken to responsible authorities; Advocate and raise awareness to ensure that the services and business of seed companies and agro-input dealers are designated as essential with a view to communicating their role as essential to food security and the national economy widely through all traditional and social media platforms.
“This awareness will target, and specifically tailored to, security and other law enforcement agencies to enable the effective inter- and intrastate movement of seed and other agro-inputs.
“Work with stakeholders to advocate for governments at all levels to provide stimulus to farmers and the seed sector in the form of seed subsidies as a palliative measure.
“Ensure subsidies only to be applicable to seed purchased from NASC approved seed companies and producers.
“Share in a structured manner and at the state level, information on the availability of seed with companies and producers information.
“Engage in an organized manner in the marketing and distribution of the subsidized seed directly to farmers”, he said.
He further stated that “Within the marketing and distribution schemes, promote the use of Seedcodex, ensure seed quality and package identity to allow companies to remain accountable for seed quality, and reduce opportunities for substandard or fake seed.
“Encourage NASC regional offices to approach their respective state Commissioners of Agriculture and COVID-19 Taskforce, including relevant Senior Police Authorities, to countersign and stamp letters which will be issued to seed producers for seed movement.
“Provide certification officers and seed companies with movement tags or permits. Decentralize responsibilities from NASC headquarters to regional offices in seed quality assurance.
“Encourage and support third-party certification for field inspection where intra and interstate restrictions prevent seed certification officer’s access to seed field.
“Raise awareness and engage with responsible authorities to include production and supply of EGS as a part of the larger seed industry and thereby an essential sector, qualifying for the specific exemptions on COVID-19 measures for the seed industry and associated services.
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“Encourage NASC regional offices to approach their respective state Commissioners of Agriculture and COVID-19 Taskforce including relevant Senior Police Authorities to countersign and stamp letters issued for EGS movement and continued EGS production at NARIs”, he added.
The seed council helmsman who also acknowledged the negative impact of the virus affecting all human activities including agriculture and going back to the field for seed sector operatives has now become a challenge.
“However, you all are aware that the CORONA VIRUS Pandemic has suddenly upset human activities and change the narratives. Going back to the field for seed sector operatives has now become a challenge as the measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus are impacting negatively on the activities of the sector like with many other sectors”, he said.
He also stated that the council working together with Wageningen University and Sahel Consulting introduced a survey (quick scan survey) that commenced from April was to access the first-hand impact of COVID -19 on the seed industry in Nigeria.
“To ensure that we clearly understand the challenges and impact of the COVID-19 on the seed sector, the NASC together with Wageningen University and Sahel Consulting introduced a survey (quick scan survey) commencing from the month of April to access first-hand the impact of COVID -19 on the seed sector.
“The scan has presented to us key areas of alert that are most impacted by the COVID-19 and also recommended coping strategies that will guide our future actions to ensure that we continue to supply our dear farmers with the best quality seeds while keeping the seed industry afloat during this trying period”, he said.
However, the council boss lamented that despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive on the free movement of food and agricultural inputs there some bottlenecks stakeholders in the industry are grappling with, which calls for the council to wade in with more effort to address the challenges.
“The COVID-19 government measures on mobility have negatively impacted on the movement of seed companies and farmers to point of sales/agro-dealers, to informal markets, also negatively impacted are the production and supply of early generation seed and more importantly the quality assurance activities including seed field inspection and laboratory testing”, he added.