As rain is to the farmers so is good seed. Therefore, in order to ride the Nigerian seed industry of fake seeds, the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) introduced the Seed Cordex initiative; JOHN OBA writes in this piece.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian agricultural sector has one of the highest potential in Africa, however, fake and adulterated seeds has become one of the greatest bane of the sector, making it less attractive.
This challenge no doubt is causing the country huge economic losses as most farmers now prefer to patronise the use of grains rather than improved seeds, while some farmers don’t know the differences between improved seeds and grains, some simply don’t just care, as they have been disappointed with the sale of some adulterated seeds packaged in the form of improved seed or they can’t even access it.
Research, has it that Nigeria has four seed system, which are; farmer-saved, public private, composed of the National Agriculture Research Institutes (NARIs) with private seed company involvement in certified seed production, public led systems, and private-led systems dominated by local seed companies. The farmer-saved seed systems according to report from Nigeria early generation seed study report by USAID and AfricaLead, represent the majority of seed volume.
The largest proportion of the EGS volume is produced by the public and private systems, while farmer-saved seeds and farmer-to-farmer seed exchange dominate the informal seed sector. While smallholder farmers in Nigeria are aware of improved varieties, the rate of adoption is low across most agro-ecological zones, as majority of smallholder farmers recycle seeds of improved varieties.
Analysis on cost and returns to contract seed production carried out in Osun state on maize and soybeans reveals that the variable costs were 97.38 per cent and 97.07 per cent of the total cost of maize and soybean production respectively. The fixed costs, on the other hand according to the report, were 2.62 per cent and 2.93 per cent of the total cost of production respectively.
The component analysis of revenue shows that 83.72 per cent and 84.00 per cent respectively of total revenue from maize and soybean were obtained from the good quality seed while 16.28 per cent and 16.00 per cent of revenue came from the poor quality seed. The economic efficiency analysis revealed a value of 0.69 and 0.83 respectively for maize and soybean which implies that a profit of 0.69 Naira and N0.83 was made for every naira spent by the out growers in maize and soybean production respectively.
According to the Director General, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) Dr. Philip Olusegun Ojo in 2018, 10,355 metric tons of Early Generation Seeds [EGS] is estimated required to produce 918,743.28 metric tons of certified seeds which in turn produce 103,079,253 metric tons of food from 46,250,733 hectares for the next three years. This according to him is expected to add N2.227 trillion to the Nigerian economy and employ 18,500, 293 farm families along the agricultural value chain.
It is in the light of this that the Council held a consortium meeting on Friday at its headquarters in Abuja to further charge critical stakeholders across the country to chat the way forward and how to improve in the yield of crops in Nigeria by ensuring that the best early generation seeds are produced.
Speaking at the meeting, Dr. Ojo said the question everywhere is the issue of low yield of agricultural productivity in Nigeria. “This was recently mentioned again at the highest quarters in the Nigerian polity. That is exactly why we are here today to discuss.
“The seed codex is here and we must all adopt it and make it work. For us we will continue in our efforts to provide quality regulation of seed matters. This is why very recently Mr. President signed into law the National Agricultural Seeds Council Act 21 of 2019, we introduced/launch the National Seed Tracker, introduced the turn-key electronic Seed Authentication system, developed a Five (5) year strategic plan and upgraded our central seed testing laboratories to meet international Standards.
“we commenced effort towards the introduction of a Legislation for the Protection of New Varieties of Plant (PVP) in Nigeria as well as firming up on our membership of international organizations like the OECD, ISF, ISTA etc. all in a bid to promote our nations participation in the global trade of seeds and enhance our quality seed delivery capability while encouraging private sector participation in the seed sector,” he said.
Dr. Ojo also lamented increased complaints of sharp practices, such as counterfeiting and fake seeds, fraudulent labeling, and regulatory offences; he however warned that the Council will not stop its efforts at reducing adulteration, saying those caught will be punished in accordance with the law.
“We however do have a lot of threats inhibiting our collective progress, for which reason we are all here today. In recent years, there has been an increase in complaints from farmers on sharp practices, such as counterfeiting and fake seeds, fraudulent labeling, regulatory offences etc. All the complaints need to stop and if it will, we must do the right things and one of the right things is to provide efficient tracking and tracing of seeds which the seed codex will help us to do.
Seed codex technology
He however revealed the council in its efforts to produce quality seed regulation has introduced a turnkey electronic authentication system called SEEDCODEX to track seeds saying currently the Council has over six million smartcards and that more will be produced to enable it effectively fight the scourge of fake seeds.
“Almost all of your seeds are being faked and this is not good for your business, seed security is so important that we must all be involved,” he charged.
The representative of AGRA, Dr. Thomas Arokoyo, commended the Council for the introduction of SeedCodex saying it is the way to go.
“Little by little we will weed out the charlatans in the seed industry. No fakery anymore, no charlatans there, we will continue to support what NASC is doing,” he said.
The director, Seeds Certification and quality control in NASC, Dr. Isiak Khalid said the seed codex is a tool that will give opportunities to farmers to authenticate the quality of seeds they are buying.
“We know that when good produces are not sufficient, the tendency for people coming in to the system to fake is high, so we think it is best we get the quacks out of business so that the genuine seeds farmers get will be part of what certified producers have.
He said seeds certification has been growing in Nigeria, with the introduction of technology, diagnosis becomes easy.
The technical assistant to the DG, Mr Folarin Okelola, who is the team leader of the project, said the use of smart card becomes necessary as dumb tags formerly used got easily worn off and were printed by those faking seeds. He said the smartcards are more protected and tamper proof.
“This time around, the tag will be sticked on the baggage and should there be rain the tag is protected and can also be used to verify the quality of the seed. This is why we say I is smart because there are more features in the tag that were not on the former type we are using.
“Also, this cannot be easily faked, because it can’t be printed by roadside printers. And whoever wants to fake it would rather use such money to start a genuine seed business. These are the additional features on this card to assure our farmers that they’re buying quality seeds. It will also give the producers confidence that their products cannot be faked.
“Even when we give a producer this smartcards, and the label is put on the bag, we have to be notified so we can energise it. Even if it is stolen and the person is putting it on his bag. It is not active until we activates it,” he said