• Commences seed tracking to check adulteration
The National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), said it requires about N1.1billion to execute various programmes under a five-year strategic plan, 2019-2024. The sum is in addition to statutory budget allocations to the Council from the Federal Government.
Parts of the plan is to use technology to leverage improved seedling for farmers and greater access to quality seeds, and position Nigeria as the seed hub of Africa, even as the country already accounts for between 60 and 70 per cent of the seeds used in West Africa.
Intimating journalists with some of its plans in Lagos, the Director-General, Dr. Phillip Ojo, said the essence of the plan is not only to sustain food sufficiency in-country, but also enhance agricultural produce for exports.
He added that the Council has been further empowered with the enactment of the NASC Act 2019, in line with changing trends in the global seed industry. Under the Act, seed offenders face stiff penalty unlike in the past when the law was very lenient.He said: “It is important to have a new Act, because there are changing trends in the global trade industry, and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind. There are also other things that were not in the old Act, which has been added; one major issue is that of doing the wrong thing in the seed industry because in any other professional business, there are also fraudulent and deceitful people as well as regulation that should not be broken.
“The penalties in the Seed Act before were very minimal, example; if anybody runs foul of the law in the old Act, he or she was to pay a fine of N50,000 for a first time offender, N100,000 for a repeat offender as well as a jail time of six months.
“Under this new Act, if the first time offender is found guilty he or she will pay N1million and a jail time of one year, while a repeat offender would pay N2million and a jail time of two years.”To enhance its efficiency, Ojo said the Council recently launched. “We went to Ibadan to launch the National Seed Tracker (NST), which started as a cassava seed tracker and yam seed tracker. But what we have now is not only a tracker that is specifically tailored to a particular crop, but a national seed crop. It is an App whereby a lot of operators can operate, and you are able to see what is happening in the seed value chain from the beginning to the end of it.
“It was done in IATA, because IATA is a major partner to us; and under the IATA there are other programmes like the Yam Improvement for Food Security in West Africa, which are sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). We are in partnership to ensure that whatever gaps that are along the value chain are actually blocked, whilst information along the value chain become available,” he explained.
Besides, he noted that due to dwindling government funding, third party certification was introduced into the law to involve the private sector.“We were in Makurdi, Benue State, to inaugurate the third party seed system. With this, the responsibility of our certification officers would be to oversee what those people are doing, which is also another way of creating employment because this assists the private sector.
“Although funding has been a challenge for the industry, but we have been able to tackle these problems; instead of waiting for the Federal Government’s budget, which may not fit into our plan, we are partnering with a lot of stakeholders both national and international. These partnerships and collaborations have actually assisted us to achieve some of the things we have done, and also building the capacity of some of our staff, as they have been trained in the UK, and today are champions in their various areas.”