The Nigerian seed sector has over the years been facing the challenges of weak technical capacity among others. JULIANA AGBO examines the role of the new methods on Seed Certification and Quality control Assurance introduced by the Seed Council to tackle adulterated seeds
The use of improved quality crop seeds by farmers has been recognised as the most important effort in boosting agricultural production and ensuring food security.
Improved quality seed is not only the cheapest and basic potential of increasing yield but also fundamental in raising the efficiency of other inputs like fertilisers, agro-chemicals and agro-machinery.
Greater percentage of improvement in agricultural production has come from the use of improved seed. In essence, no agricultural practices, including fertilisation, irrigation can improve crop production beyond the limit set by seed.
Although the National Agriculture Seeds Council (NASC) has for some time been fighting to rid the sector of any threat that may put it at risk.
To realise these expectations, NASC has commenced training on operations and uses of National Seed Tracker to improve the seed system towards a sustainable food and nutritional security in the country.
The training on New Methods in Seeds Certification and Quality Control Assurance which had Seed Certification, Quality Control Officers and stakeholders in agricultural value chain, in attendance with emphasis on the need to leverage on the seed tracker to increase farmers' yield among other benefits.
Speaking at the three-day training in Zaria, Kaduna State on Monday, the Director General of the Council Dr Philip Ojo said it has become mandatory for all that is involved in seed production, processing and marketing to be accredited to perform its responsibilities.
Ojo who called on Certification Officers not to truncate the process, urged seed companies to leverage on it and expand their frontiers in local and international seed trade.
He explained that the seed tracker which has been designed to fit the needs of local farmers, has the potential to transform the National Seed system, improve farmers revenue and uplift their social economics status.
On how the App works, Ojo said it will provide real time information on seed variety, quantity, availability while facilitating trade decisions and timely access to seed markets.
While highlighting the place of improved seedling in agricultural value chain, he said private and international agencies engaging in programmes of production, distribution of seeds must get concurrence of NASC and involve them from the planning stages.
On penalty for adulterated seed dealers, he highlighted on modification of penalty for infringements, to ensure that it is severe enough to serve as a deterrent such as imprisonment for one year or a fine of one million naira for first offender and two million naira for previous offenders.
"It is my belief that the National Seed tracker programme would help the Seed system in many ways as it would digitally connect seed producers, seed traders, and seed quality control officers.
"The battle to rid the seed space of unscrupulous seed merchants, whose only motive is to short-change our farmers by supplying poor quality planting materials is a priority of the NASC to increase yield among other benefits.
"No persons can engage in any seed related activity in Nigeria without the accreditation by the NASC as stated in Section 20," he averred.
The Director General earlier informed that President Muhammadu Buhari has assented to the National Agricultural seeds Act, the most important authority for NASC to use for its regulatory responsibilities.
He expressed hope that with the national agricultural seed bill of 2019, the seed industry will experience new reforms to continually position NASC as a hub of seed for the region, allowing for international best practices as leaders of seed industry in west Africa, producing over 60 percent of seeds used in the sub-region.
Furthermore, he said with the new national agricultural seed bill of 2019 in place, NASC can conveniently operate with the current dynamics in global seed trade and create a better conducive atmosphere for private sector participation in the nations seed industry.
Speaking on the importance of the seed tracker, the Executive Director, National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS), Prof Khalid Othman, said the seed tracker will not only stop adulterated seeds and increase yield, but will create a new form of employment for Nigerians through the innovation.
He said, "With this new method, NASC has a very challenging role to play as the population is increasing, the demand is increasing, in the next 20 years, Nigeria will be the third most populous country,, so they must be proactive at all times," he said.
He said NAERLS as an Institute responsible for development, collation, evaluation and dissemination of proven agricultural innovations and to research on extension methodologies and policy, is is willing to partner with Seed Council to meet the demands of the country.
The Professor who called for more collaboration to meet the demands of the country, he said Nigeria as a country well blessed with natural resources, must double efforts to meet the targeted food security, and export and completely stop importation food.
The Director Seeds Certification and Quality Control, NASC, Dr Khalid Ishiak, noted that the seed Certification would give room for a lot of innovations in the Agriculture sector.
He explained that it is a platform that allow every player to know what is happening from production, up to marketing that checks activities of the regulator itself.
Mrs Romoke Akande, a certification officer from Northwest Zone, said the transition from the analogue to electronic certification of seeds would enable easy monitoring of seeds to the source by the council and farmers.
She said farmers with the help of the seed tracker will be able to discern adulterated seeds from anywhere in the world electronically.