Using the instrumentalities of its new act recently signed by the Federal Government, the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) has disclosed its preparedness to become the largest seed hub in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure the availability of quality planting materials for farmers.
Improved seeds and seedlings, it said, would ensure the productivity of farmers, the viability of agricultural entities, poverty reduction, and food security for Nigeria and Africa by 2024.
These were disclosed by the Director-General of NASC, Dr Philips Ojo, during a three-day retreat for top management of the seed council, its board, representatives of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), research institutes and private sector operators in the seed industry at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, recently.
Between now and the end of 2024, NASC said it would achieve complete transformation to become a centre of excellence for the seed industry in West Africa, which would serve as a centre for seed research and development, capacity building hub, a nexus for seed data management and a point for government policy and advisory support on seeds.
The director-general also said the council would work in partnership with the private sector towards creating expanded markets for seeds and enhancing farmers’ ease of getting quality seeds to promote model markets in strategic areas to take seeds directly to farmers.
“We are perfecting our membership of the International Seed Testing Association (ISTA), the International Union for the Protection of Varieties of new plants (UPOV) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to enable us to participate fully in the international seed space.
“The council will ensure that 40 per cent of farmers in Nigeria uses improved open-pollinated and hybrid seeds across priority value chains, roots and tubers, grains and vegetables,” Ojo added.
He also said to ensure zero per cent adulterated seeds in the ecosystem, the council would deploy seed-tracking technologies for real-time tracking of all seed activities and the use of codes, tagged NASCCODEX, for authentication and anti-faking of seeds.
Director of Plant Resources Development, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Mr. Yarama Ndirpaya, said adulteration of seeds came about as a result of excessive demand oversupply of seeds.
To tackle this, he said the ARCN had been working to ensure that agricultural research institutes develop and make available improved varieties for farmers through seed council.
He disclosed that ARCN works with research institutes, NASC, seed companies, and other stakeholders to minimise the threat of sub-standard seeds.
Dr. Rose Gidado, Deputy Director, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), said, “Seed is the life wire of agriculture because if you have quality seeds, it is a very important aspect of agriculture.”
She explained that once farmers have access to quality seeds, production costs would reduce, food security could be achieved and nutritional challenges could be tackled.
“Improved seeds will tolerate drought, will be insect-resistant and could have some micro-nutrients in them through bio-fortification,” she said.