By Adewumi Bukola
Abuja – Dr Philip Ojo, the Director-General, National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), says Nigeria is getting it right by closing its borders and restricting FOREX on importation of food, especially rice.
Ojo, represented by Dr Ishiak Khalid, the Director, Seed Certification and Quality Control of the council, spoke during a symposium organised by NASC in Sheda, Gwagawalada, Abuja.
The symposium was tagged: “Making Quality Seeds Available, Accessible and Affordable to Nigeria Farmers’’.
Ojo said that the closure of borders would go a long way in addressing food security issues and security challenges.
“As it stands, there is guaranteed market for anyone who is willing to produce.
“From my interaction with people, everybody is looking for rice field to produce, and as a nation, we cannot continue to empower farmers from other nations leaving our own.
“In advanced economies, it is observed that the richest people are farmers, therefore, it is time for us to look at what they are doing that we are not doing,’’ Ojo said.
According to him, China closed its border in order to address this type of issue and to stimulate domestic food production in that country.
Ojo said that such experience usually came with pains “but it is normal and will encourage domestic food production.’’
“We should be thinking of exporting not importing rice which we can produce in abundance. Recently, we hear of the price of crude oil coming down and oil not selling.
“If that is the case, why do we need to use our little FOREX to be purchasing food instead of defining what we want to eat and not just what is being given to us,’’ Ojo said.
He said that the seed fair was an annual event made special by the symposium, which brought academics, researchers and critical stakeholders together.
He said that the grand finale of the seed week would take place at the council’s headquarters with all the major stakeholders expected to be present with the unveiling of new varieties as the high point.
Ojo said that new varieties of rice, which could withstand flooding would be unveiled as well as pod borer resistant cowpea which was still on trial.
“At the end of the day, we are looking at varieties that will increase productivity per unit area.
“At the end of the symposium, we are coming out with resolutions that will support the farmers in coming out with their choices of varieties which will improve yield,’’ the D-G said.
Mr Idris Aliyu, the Director, Seed Industry Development, Technical Support and Commercial Services said the symposium was part of NASC’s strategy of making quality seeds available, accessible and affordable to farmers.
He said the NASC was working to put in place superstructures to make this possible.
On the availability of seeds, he disclosed the first step was to liberalise the seed sector, whereby every entrepreneur was given opportunity to invest in agribusiness within the seed value chain.
“We are proud to tell you that NASC so far, has registered not less than 314 seed companies in their various categories in the country,’’ he said.
On the accessibility of seeds, he said NASC had developed mechanisms by creating seed marketing companies and developing novel ideas in seed marketing systems.
According to him, these systems include the creation of mobile kiosks and vendor schemes stationed at every major local market.
On affordability, the director said that the NASC had created competition within the seed industries and markets which would lead to regulating the pricing system to make seeds affordable to farmers.
Prof. Mohammed Othman, the Director, National Agricultural Extension and Liason Services (NAERLS) at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria said “the institution is a major stakeholder’’.
“Due to the importance of seed in agricultural production, we had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the seed council.
“Seeds are so important to agricultural productivity and without seed, there is no way you can increase productivity appropriately,’’ he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports other presentations included “Understanding the Provision of the National Agric Seeds Council Act 2019 on Seed Certification and Marketing for Effective Quality Seed Delivery’’