NASC: Boosting Nigeria’s seed sector through stakeholders capacity building

The importance of seed to farming can not be overemphasized hence the National Agricultural Seed Council’s (NASC) recently capacity building training for all stakeholders in the seed industry; JOHN OBA report.

The National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), and stakeholders in the Seed industry met in Abuja to discuss the seeds industry as it affects seeds importation, production, sales, and exports.

The workshop was designed to build capacity and as well as sensitize stakeholders on the need to implement the NASC Act 2019.

‘improving institutional efficiency

In his opening remarks, the DG National Agricultural Seeds Council, Dr Philip Olusegun Ojo explained that the Council over the past few years had been working tirelessly with seed companies, partners and donor agencies on reforms that will accelerate investment and improve institutional efficiency and effectiveness in the sector.

According to Dr Ojo, the Seed industry in Nigeria is witnessing transformation, as new innovations are being unpacked to make stakeholders’ jobs easier, more effective and efficient.

“As you are aware, the National Agricultural Seeds Act No. 72 of 1992 has been reviewed through a series of processes involving national and international bodies in order to make the Seeds law consistent with current dynamics in global seed trade and create a better conducive atmosphere for private sector participation in the Nation’s seed industry.

The NASC helmsman also underscored the need for a properly structured seed system to support the industry, saying seed is the starting point of agricultural revolution and a panacea for food and nutritional security.

He disclosed that more stringent penalties for infringements had been rolled out to serve as deterrent to offenders. Offences that used to attract N500 or 6 months imprisonment have been raised to N1 million or one year imprisonment for first offenders, and N2 million or 2 years imprisonment for second offenders, or both.

“These stringent punishments were adopted to discourage those who may plan to violate such rules. He said the increment became necessary as some people might be tempted to purposely offend and pay the small punishments.

“I am happy that the national assembly has passed the Plant Variety Protection Law, currently waiting to be accented to by the president. The vegetable seed market is the least regulated sector in the industry in Nigeria, seeing the importation of various substances into the country; some helpful, some very unhelpful.

“You understand that the Seeds council’s primary responsibility is to sanitize the industry using the instrumentality of the law. Others include formulating policies, programs and actions regarding development of the seed industry, creating legislation that involves seed testing, seed registration, seed production, marketing and distribution; certification and quality control; supply and use in Nigeria, including importation and exportation of seeds.

“The NASC Act 2019 does not permit importation for commercial purpose, however, importation for the purposes of research and development is highly encouraged. We all know this is not the case today. Notwithstanding, we are not shutting our doors to importation just yet, we understand that they are challenges facing the industry and these challenges we will all work through together to surmount especially in the face of increasing global trade and regional alliance that promotes free and botherless trade amongst countries, regional bodies and intergovernmental organizations,” he said.

The DG highlighted some improvement to the extant regulations to include modification of penalty for infringements to ensure that it is severe enough to serve as a deterrent; more options for quality assurance; third-party certification; etc; plan for the certification of planting materials; introduction of plant breeders to encourage private sector investment in crop breeding.

Mr Ojo also said NASC will do all within its powers to bring about growth in the industry and the desired changes, engaging all the stakeholders at various times. He said that more had been done, but there was still more to be done.

Raising the standard

Stakeholders at the workshop expressed happiness at the achievements of the council, the innovations introduced and the strides the seeds council was taking to make the sector at par with global best practices.

They lauded the initiative of NASC to lean towards technology in terms of registration and verification. Others, however, lamented the challenges faced when trying to import seeds.

They said the seed council should streamline the process to make it easier for seed companies to import seeds and by extension, farmers to get seeds and on time. They advised the seeds council to encourage more third party participation.

Kayode Olorunyemi from Harvest Fields Industries Limited however, lamented the difficult processes involved in getting approval for seeds’ importation.

He called for harmonisation of the processes noting the stress of going through the National Agricultural seeds council, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service, NAFDAC and others, increasing taxes thereby leading to farmers paying high prices for seeds.

Also, Steve Bawa, Managing Director, Fruits and Beverages lamented the challenges in importing Irish potato seeds into the country due to NAFDAC’s requirements.\

He wondered what the agency had to do with seeds importation, describing NAFDAC processes as another bottleneck, looking to undo years of progress.

“We went into a relationship with a company in Europe, and through that relationship, we’ve been able to bring in seeds every year. But in 2019, we made an application to bring in seeds; the seeds council approved as usual, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service approved as usual but we couldn’t get to bring those seeds in good time. We didn’t even know the new requirement that we needed to get NAFDAC approval. We approached their office in Jos; no one knew anything about the new requirement, until we contacted Abuja. It was a lengthy pre-approval.

“By the time we got their approval and the CBN approval, the planting season for potatoes had passed. It took us over two months to resolve the issue. We bought the seeds – the 3 containers for N30 million and spent N29 million just to get them out of the port in Lagos,” he said.

Another participant who simply identified himself as Jafar, said the NASC should seek ways of only partnering with agricultural seeds institutions, saying these institutions are widespread across the country.

The training saw various experts trained the stakeholders on seeds and seeds maintenance, preservation, among many other issues.

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