The National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) has certified 81,000 metric tons of seeds across the country, Philip Ojo, the director general, has said.
This was disclosed by the official while addressing journalists in a virtual meeting, Tuesday.
“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, soyabean, 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,” he said.
NASC is the agency charged with the overall development and regulation of the nation’s seed industry.
In his remarks, Mr Ojo said, “seed is the beginning of agriculture and seeds must be secured for food security to be guaranteed.”
Following the coronavirus pandemic, the official said the seed sector had been faced with huge challenges.
He said his agency is advocating for state governments to issue seeds as palliatives to farmers.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for directing the free movement of food and agricultural inputs, but said some bottlenecks remain.
His remarks is coming barely a month after President Muhammadu Buhari directed the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono and other key players of the sector to join the already existing 12-member Presidential Task Force (PTF), as a strategy to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on the year’s farming season.
Meanwhile, Mr Ojo at the meeting, said the seed industry is preparing to push out this quantity of certified seeds in order to have enough seeds for the next planting season.
The NASC boss said the agency together with Wageningen University and Sahel Consulting introduced a survey (quick scan survey) last month 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 mostly 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 .
The outcome of the survey titled; Seed Alert, he said, shows that mobility restrictions hampered access to markets by farmers, seed companies and agro-dealers, which resulted in increased prices and reduced seeds affordability for farmers. This he said said posed severe negative impact on the seed industry.
Mr Ojo expressed worry over the negative impacts of the pandemic on the different value chains of agriculture.
He said, “also negatively impacted is the production and supply of early generation seed and more importantly the quality assurance activities including seed field inspection and laboratory testing.”
Having identified some of the key challenges the seed industry is grappling with as a result of the coronavirus crisis, Mr Ojo said the council will be working with others to implement “an array of actions to keep the sector breathing in the midst of the crisis”.
To do this, he listed some strategic guidelines the agency would follow.
He said the agency will structure the trade of seed and agro-inputs in designated markets while complying with the social distancing directions of relevant agencies of government at both local, state and federal levels respectively.
“The above will be done using a decentralised model for organisi g 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,” he said.
He said his agency will also create seed sector task forces to review regularly the interstate movement of essential agricultural goods and services and “also provide guidance on measures to be taken to responsible authorities, while raising awareness to ensure that the services and business of seed companies and agro-input dealers are designated as essential.”