Good quality seeds are indispensable to higher yields in agriculture. But the current low quality seeds encouraged by the non-payment of the GES has enhanced fl ooding of the Nigerians agricultural sector with fake seeds which will reverse every gain in the sector made under this administration JOHN OBA, writes
Th e prospects of the Nigeria agriculture is to say the least high. With millions of hectares of fertile land, good climatic condition couple with the government’s diversifi cation drive with special focus on agriculture and private sector readiness to invest in the sector, indeed the sector possess great potentials.
But the Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria, (SEEDAN), has lamented the fact that the delay in the payment for the seeds supplied under the GES has heightened interest burden, prostrating the seed sector and exposed several seed companies to sustained threats and embarrassments from various banks. Speaking at the just concluded seed fair and fi eld day at the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) on Wednesday, SEEDAN president, Mr Richard Olafare, he said access to fi nancing has been impeded by the hiccup in the payment for seeds supplied under Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) which is tending to reverse the gains in the sector if not conclusively addressed. He invited that the minister of agriculture and rural development to intervene into the matter to forest continued embarrassment from banks while appealing for immediate payment of the outstanding balance for the seeds supplied. He said: “Earlier, some banks published a list of so called defaulting seed companies in the national newspapers with full intent to intimidate and provoke the companies to subscribe to paying the loans used. It is on record that all payments so far made by the government under the scheme have mostly been taken by banks to off set part of the loans. Th ere have been problems with the seed deployment partnership but there are not many viable alternatives to making seeds available to enhance yields of farmers.
We will continue to encourage government to do the needful especially for the dry season as we have already lost the current wet season. More to this is the urgent need for the speedy passage of the revised seed bill which had gone through the second reading at the House of Representatives. We believe that this will provide a framework for the development of a private sector driven seed industry,” he said. Olafare stated further that the seed business is capital intensive hence sustained access to low cost fi nance is the primed driver for growth and commitment to quality at every stage, adding that owing to fi nancing made available for three straight years, the number of seed companies grew by more than 200% and seed volume grew by more than 400%. He complained on the use of improved seeds in Nigeria, saying it uses is less than 20% compare to other East and Southern African countries that record well above 60%.
According to him, wide spread poverty and the small size of farm holdings make support to farmers necessary if they are to sustainably use improved seeds and other novels farm tools. Th e minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, responding said the debt profi le left by the previous administration contributed to the delayed payment of the input suppliers saying the current administration will restructure the GES as many input suppliers submitted false claims. He said part payment of debts owned to agroput suppliers for seeds and other input distributed during the erstwhile ATA programme was part of the measure put up by the administration to increase agricultural productivity. “Let me reiterate that quality seed paramount to enhancing agricultural productivity as it contributes more than 50% of increased crop productivity per unit area.
“ Government has also embarked on aggressive dissemination of proven agricultural technologies and training of farmers through massive extension programmes, thus the federal department of agricultural extension is been directed to collaborate with NASC on dissemination of seed related technologies,” he said. He however, promised that the government is working on paying the outstanding debts to input suppliers, just as he also lamented the submission of frivolous bills by some input dealers, saying these were fi shed out. Ogbeh also warned the sellers of fake and low quality seeds saying their time is up as those caught in the act will be made to pay seriously. “Th e government is committed to safeguard the livelihood of our farmers.
As part of the measures taken to curb the menace of the unscrupulous seed merchants, the Seed Council which has the statutory responsibility of enforcing the provisions of the law has embarked on public enlightenment and sensitisation programmes in collaboration with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
“ Also Seed law enforcement surveillance is mounted in all states of the federation, to ensure the availability of quality seeds to our farmers, “ he said. However, NASC director general, Dr. Philip Olusegun Ojo, explained that in eff orts to rid the market fake and adulterated seeds, the Council regularly undertakes sensitisation and educational campaign to educate the public on the attributes of good quality seeds.
“Th is we follow with enforcement and surveillance activities as a mandate; and within the cropping season some fake and adulterated seeds were confi scated at various markets. “Th e Council is prepared to clamp down on any unauthorized groups or individuals engaging in illegal seed business. To make the sector more business friendly, we in NASC had complied with the presidential order on ease of doing business and developed a service charter which I enjoin all present to please visit our website for more details,” he said.