Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha, Director-General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), said productivity data obtained from farmers’ fields was key to the revival of the moribund textile industry in Nigeria.
Mustapha said this at a one-day Biotech(Bt) cotton stakeholders’ training workshop on Monday in Abuja.
According to the D-G, the stage was now set for self-sufficiency in the production of cotton as an industrial raw material capable of boosting the transformation of the textile industry.
He said: “Nigerian farmers who would be involved in Bt. cotton business would be empowered to enjoy increased productivity.
“We cannot overemphasize the irreplaceable role Bt. cotton plays in reviving Nigeria’s economy.
“It can produce 4.1 to 4.4 tonnes per hectare, compared to the local variety, which yields just 600 to 900 kilogrammes per hectare.
“Since Bt. cotton can resist the devastating bollworm and tolerate sucking insects, it will help farmers reduce their use of pesticides.
“This also helps to minimise environmental impacts and lowering production costs.
Mustapha, who was represented by Dr Nasiru Ibrahim, Director of Agricultural Biotechnology department, assured that these varieties were suitable for cultivation in all Nigeria’s cotton growing zones.
He said,” in addition to the pest-resistant traits, they offer early maturity, fiber length of 30.0 to 30.5 millimeters and fiber strength of 26.5 to 27.0 in tenacity and strength of 3.9 to 4.1.
” Bt. cotton varieties would save farmers the trouble of contending with the local conventional variety, which was no longer accepted at the international markets.
Mustapha said that recent initiatives to improve the contribution of the agricultural sector to economic growth in Nigeria had emphasised the importance of cotton production in stimulating the economy.
“Bt. cotton, therefore, raises hope for textile industry’s revival as the commercialization has started a revolution that will help Nigeria in curbing cotton shortage.
“In the last 3 to 4 decades, biotechnology worldwide had shifted from being seen as a strategic emerging industry to one of the mainstays of most advanced nations’ strategic industries,’’ Mustapha said.
Dr Rose Gidado, Deputy Director at the agency and the Country Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), said that the workshop brought together key cotton stakeholders and farmers.
Gidado said that the workshop would also provide education to counter misinformation and increase understanding of crop varieties using biotechnology, among others.
She stated that investments in awareness creation on agricultural biotechnology issues would deliver multiple positive responses.
“There is the need to unbundle the application of this technology for national growth to secure popular support from the masses,’’ Gidado urged.
Dr Gerald Smith, Counselor for Agricultural Affairs at the United States Department for Agriculture(USDA), said that in spite of large cotton planting areas, Nigeria still lagged behind other cotton cultivating countries in terms of production.
“I believe the use of Bt. cotton can help foster increased yields and productivity.
“Over several years, farm trials in Asia showed that Bt. cotton yielded about 60 per cent more than conventional varieties,’’ Smith said.
Achimugu was represented by Mr Ado Sule, Director of Administration in NACOTAN.
The workshop had as theme: “Grassroot Engagement for Sustainable Commercialisation of Bt. cotton.
It was organised by NABDA, in collaboration with NACOTAN and USDA, among other critical stakeholders.