Says 5 million Nigerian farmers to be tested of virus

Why biotechnology is crucial to secure food system amid COVID-19 — Nanono
Mohammed Nanono

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Nanono, Tuesday, explained why biotechnology is crucial to secure Nigeria’s food system amid the novel Coronavirus, COCID-19, pandemic.

Nanono stated this in his keynote address during the ‘National Virtual Conference on Technological Interventions in Mitigating the Impacts of COVID-19 on Nigeria’s Food Security’ organised Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa Nigeria Chapter, OFAB, Webinar Series.

He also maintained that the Buhari-led administration places a high priority on agriculture and determined to diversify the economy through agriculture, which farmers are being “prioritized in the receipt of interest-free loans and under the Agriculture for Food and Jobs Programme, this administration is making available farm inputs in the form of improved seeds, agrochemicals, and fertilizers to our smallholder farmers across the country. Equally, we are providing rural infrastructures like roads, mini-dams, and farmstead storage facilities for our rural dwellers.”

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He said: “It gives me pleasure to address this august gathering today. As we embark on an assessment of the challenges confronting our nation’s quest for self-sufficiency in food production, the critical role that technology plays in helping the agricultural sector respond to the existential threat posed by the COVID19 Pandemic, comes to the fore.

“The pandemic has ravaged the entire world in a manner not seen in recent history and the concomitant implications on humanity’s socio-economic existence remain profound.

“Accordingly, this event with the theme: Technological interventions in mitigating impacts of COVID-19 could not have come at a better time.

“Technology is critical in today’s world, and its relevance in agriculture is all the more crucial in preventing farmers’ crop losses to disease; enhancing market access; and the achievement of appropriate pricing for farm inputs, services and produce.

“This is particularly important for smallholder farmers at this time as the vagaries brought on by the unavoidable movement restrictions imposed by government at the onset of the pandemic have served to disrupt agricultural supply chains across the world.

“However, biotechnology, in particular, looks set to play an even more intense role in the food security situation in Nigeria. It is important to state as a preliminary point, that for thousands of years, farmers have been using breeding techniques to modify the genetic state of crops and animals in order to improve quality and yield.

“Modern biotechnology is, therefore, a crucial tool in the drive to produce plants and animals that possess traits capable of enhancing humanity’s capacity to secure its food systems.”

The Minister also acknowledged that without the galvanizing power of biotechnology, processing, and value addition, which are critical for agro-industrialization would be retarded.

“Similarly, with the aid of biotechnology, we can extend the shelf life of agricultural produce. Indeed, without the galvanizing power of biotechnology, processing, and value addition, which are critical for agro-industrialization would be retarded.

“With the COVID-19 Pandemic, however, biotechnology has proven to be an integral part of the medical response. You may recall that only recently, I joined my colleague, the Minister of Science and Technology in the public announcement of Nigeria’s COVID-19 extraction kit, the RNA Swift.”

According to him the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, under his leadership will continue to support and engender investments in science and technology.

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“It is in this regard that I have directed the commencement of a comprehensive appraisal of the Nigerian agricultural research system, with a view to identifying ways of enhancing the performance of our research institutions. The management and staff of these institutions are hereby requested to join hands with the government in seeking technology-based solutions to existing problems such as low yield, pest and insect infestation, as well as post-harvest losses. Emphasis should also be placed on demand-driven beneficial technologies”, he stated.

However, he (Nanono) disclosed that 5 million farmers across the country will be tested as part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s mandate to tackle possible famine inhibiting food production.

“Now, thanks to the work of Nigerian bio-engineers, the technology for administering the COVID-19 test is now available locally. I am happy to announce that plans are in place to test 5 million Nigerian farmers as part of Mr. President’s mandate for famine inhibiting food production”, he said.

Vanguard

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