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NASC D-G commends FG over border closure, restriction of forex for food imports



News Today 2

Dr Philip Ojo, Director-General, National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), says Nigeria is getting it right by closing its borders and restricting forex for importation of food, especially rice.

Ojo, represented by Dr Ishiak Khalid, the Director of Seed Certification and Quality Control at the NASC, spoke with newsmen on the sideline of a symposium organised by NASC in Sheda, Abuja

The symposium is titled: “Making Quality Seeds Available, Accessible and Affordable to Nigeria Farmers.’’

Ojo said that the closure of the borders would go a long way in addressing food security issues as well as security challenges.

He said that 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, the richest people are farmers, therefore, it is time for us to look at what they are doing, and what   we are not doing,’’ Ojo said.

He cited a country like China, which he said, closed its borders in order to address this type of issue and stimulate domestic food production in the country.

Though he acknowledged that such experience comes with pain, he said it was normal and would 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 disclosed that the seed fair was an annual event, made special by organising the symposium with academics, researchers and critical stakeholders in attendance.

He said the grand finale of the seed week would take place on Thursday at the council’s headquarters, with all the major stakeholders expected to be present, with the unveiling of new varieties.

He hinted that new varieties of rice which can withstand flooding would be unveiled as well as pod borer resistant cowpea which was 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, Director of Seed Industry Development, Technical Support and Commercial Services at the NASC, said the event was part of strategy of making quality seeds available, accessible and affordable to farmers.

On the availability of seeds, he disclosed that the first step was to liberalise the seed sector, whereby every entrepreneur is 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 has 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 industry and marketers, that would help regulate the pricing system to make seeds affordable to farmers.

Prof. Mohammed Othman, Director, National Agricultural Extension Research and Liaison 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(MoU) with the Seed Council.

“Seeds are so important to agricultural productivity and without seeds there is no way you can increase productivity appropriately,’’ he said.(NAN)


Editing by Vivian Ihechu/Obike Ukoh

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