By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As Nigeria remains the largest producer of cassava in the world, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, National Agricultural Seed Council, NASC, and National Root Crops Research Institute, NRCRI, Thursday, disclosed efforts made to meet farmers’ demand of over N10 billion on cassava stems.
Experts from IITA, NASC, and NRCRI said developing a cassava seed system would help Nigeria to transform cassava and meet the growing demand for cassava seeds.
According to them in 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria-midwifed programme to develop cassava seed growers on 100,000 hectares across the country created a huge demand for improved and disease-free planting materials that surpassed supply.
Director for Development & Delivery, IITA, Dr Alfred Dixon, who led a delegation of experts on a courtesy visit to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Nanono, said, “Last year, the demand for certified cassava stems from cassava growers was estimated at N10 billion.
“Unfortunately, this opportunity was not fully taken by farmers as it was difficult to get certified stems of improved varieties.”
The courtesy visit, which was coordinated in the framework of the IITA-managed project known as the Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, phase 2, (BASICS-II); provided an opportunity for experts to draw the attention of high-level decision-makers to the untapped opportunity that cassava seed system offers in terms of food security, jobs and income generation.
Dixon noted that IITA through the BASICS-II project was already working with partners and farmers to tap the opportunity, explaining that the project was creating a formal seed system for cassava that links breeder seeds with foundation seed producers and foundation seed producers to commercial seed entrepreneurs.
“The commercial seed producers will thereafter sell to the cassava root producer and cassava root producers will subsequently process into various end products or sell surplus roots to processing industries in the Country.
“In this fashion, we will be creating jobs and income generation opportunities for young people that will serve as seed entrepreneurs and modern producers of cassava. Furthermore, the use of certified seeds will increase the national productivity of cassava”, he said.
However, he (Dixon) pointed that the Federal Government should support the IITA GoSeeds and NRCRI Umudike Seed—two Early Generation seed companies that are imperative for sustainable seed production that will feed the demand pool for commercial seed producers.
He said it was imperative for greater collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and IITA including NASC and NRCRI, hence government should scale-out the BASICS-II project model to other cassava growing States as currently, the project is on in Benue, Kogi, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Oyo, and Delta States.
He said, “Thirdly, we are appealing that the government should ensure that only certified seeds by NASC are procured from the Commercial Seeds Entrepreneurs. Lastly, you may recall the great contributions of IITA in the previous Presidential Initiatives on Cassava where we formed National consortia that successfully prevented the entrance of the devastating Uganda variant of the Cassava Mosaic Disease into the Country.
“Also, the last Agricultural Transformation Agenda was stimulated with IITA, NRCRI, and partners’ research outputs. We want to support you by continuing to play a higher and pivotal role by becoming the technical hub for FMARD for cassava innovations that could also be scaled to other clonally propagated crops in Nigeria.”
Also speaking was the Executive Director, NRCRI, Prof Ukpabi Joseph Ukpabi, who stressed that collaboration with IITA had been beneficial to the country.
According to Ukpabi the partnership made Nigeria the largest producer of cassava.
In the same vein, the Director-General, NASC, Dr Philip Ojo, said the collaboration with IITA especially through the BASICS-II project was helping in the certification of seeds, making Nigeria a reference point to other nations for quality seed certification and regulation.
In his response, the Minister promised the commitment of the government to support the cassava seeds sector owing to its strategic importance as a food security crop and an income earner.
He called for the involvement of the private sector in the cassava value chain, adding that it would create the much-needed jobs and wealth to transform the economy.
He said, “As a ministry, we want to support the private sector for sustainability.”
According to him, the Ministry will continue to create appropriate policy measures for the successful production and distribution of cassava products to ensure the availability of food and raw materials for industries.
Members of the delegation were Executive Director, National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike, Prof Ukpabi Joseph Ukpabi; the Director-General, National Agricultural Seed Council, Dr Philip Ojo; Project Manager, BASICS-II, Prof Lateef Sanni; IITA GoSeed Manager, Dr Mercy Diebiru-Ojo; Project Manager, NextGen Cassava Project, Prof Chiedozie Egesi; Project Administrator, Ezinne Ibe; and Advocacy, Promotion & Outreach Lead, Godwin Atser.