There is no food security if there is no seed security– Ojo

Dr. Olusegun Philip Ojo is the Director-General, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC). In this interview with FRIDAY AGBOSEINA, he speaks on the imperative of improving farm yields using improved high yield seeds

How do you impact your regulatory functions in the seed market? Th ere can be no impact without proper knowledge management. For us the fi rst thing is to spread adequate information and create the necessary awareness on the seed law and our role as the seed industry regulator. Th is we are doing through series of activities including, radio programmes like farmers’ friend, publication of information bulletins, pamphlets and newsletters, our fi eld days, road shows, sensitization/enlightenment campaigns etc.

Further to this, we carry out market raids and regular surveillances in conjunction with security outfi ts such as the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Nigeria Police Force. How has your mandate contributed to improve farm yields in the country?

What are your strategies for reaching farmers which are majorly in the rural areas? Our contribution to improving farm yields have been very notable over the past few years particularly pre and post GES programme implementation. We championed the distribution of only high quality seeds by ensuring that only accredited seeds companies participated in the government support programmes.

As to reaching farmers in the rural areas, we encourage the establishment of community seeds programmes in rural communities, we equally encourage companies to establish seed distribution outlets in the rural areas and also partner with seed companies, farmer organizations and other NGOs in the establishment of demonstrations sites in local communities to showcase the superiority of quality seeds over farmers own saved seeds.

Th is activity also encourages what we call lateral spread of quality seeds as there is very close interactions between the communities, seed companies and other stakeholders during the fi eld days/seed fairs and exhibitions. What is your perception of seed importation into the country and how relevant is this aspect of world trade to Nigeria’s agriculture? Is Nigeria a seed exporting country?

Th ere is a procedure for seed import and export as entrenched in our laws. While we are not against importation of seeds of crops and varieties of which we cannot produce locally, our policy frowns seriously against importation of seeds of any crop or variety which we can produce locally. We are equally very careful about importation as unguided importation can result in the introduction of pest and diseases that are alien to our country.

Th erefore, as a matter of policy anyone who wishes to import seeds to Nigeria must notify us and get our permission otherwise such importation is against the National Agricultural Seeds Act No. 72 of 1992. Nigeria for now is not in the league of seed exporting nations. We are still a net importer of seeds particular seeds of exotic vegetable. Only recently we organized a workshop in Kano to forge a way forward on how to properly police importation of vegetable seeds into Nigeria as a lot of people currently engage in this business without proper recourse to the seed law. We need to say however that we are currently implementing the ECOWAS Regulation that promotes the exchange of seeds across ECOWASUEMOA – CILSS countries.

Nigerian Seed Companies are currently using this medium to export seeds to some neighbouring countries. A recent case is the case of exportation of over 600 tons of maize and rice to Liberia and Sierra Leone during the period of the Ebola Outbreak. What are the processes of seed de velopment through to certifi cation in the Council? Seed development starts with research, where a Breeder develops a variety and pushes the variety to the National Variety Release Committee for release once the variety is confi rmed to be a novel variety that is distinct, uniform and stable when compared to all existing varieties of the crop of concern.

Once a variety is released and registered in the offi cial catalogue, seed production and multiplication commences with the breeder producing what we call Breeder Seeds. Th e BS is further multiplied to what is called Foundation Seeds (CS), which is further multiplied to Certifi ed Seeds (CS).

Th e certifi ed seed class is what the farmers buy from seed companies to produce grains. All the classes of seeds mentioned above undergo third party certifi cation and this certifi cation is carried out by the government certifying agency in this case the NASC. Certifi cation starts with a registered company or seed producer applying for certifi cation with NASC at the beginning of the cropping season with the notifi cation of his intent to produce what crop and the registration of his seed fi elds and growers with the NASC.

Upon NASC confi rmation of the source of companies planting materials, offi cers of the Council visit the seed fi elds and carry out fi eld inspections to ensure that the company’s production conforms to the laid down standards for the production of the crop. Th is process culminates in the drawing of samples for testing and upon receipt of a satisfactory report of seed testing from the seed testing laboratory, the certifi cation tag is affi xed. Th e affi xation of tags completes the process of certifi cation.

Tags are of diff erent colours depending on the class of seed. Blue tags for CS, white tags for FS and white with red strips for the BS class. What is the matrix of collaboration with research agencies within and outside the country to generate improve seed for the sector? NASC is a key collaborator with relevant research agencies within and outside the country. For all research agencies domiciled in Nigeria, we pay the role of third party certifi cation as the NASC tags is the sole confi rmation of class of seed.

Our national research agencies work in close collaboration with international agencies for joint research and exchange of germplasm for the conduct of breeding and other activities. We also collaborate to conduct Joint Monitoring of Breeder Seed fi elds, and other activities such as seed multiplication and varietal development What are your internal infrastructure capacity to deliver improve seeds to the market? We have the requisite capacity institutionally, infrastructure wise and manpower wise. We have our headquarters here in Sheda with a pool of very well trained staff s and a Central Seed Testing Laboratory that serves as a reference lab for the country.

In addition to having certifi cation offi cers in all the 36 states and the FCT, we have 6 regional offi ces in the six geo political zones of the country with each region having a modest seed testing facility and a seed testing laboratory. What are your current eff orts to produce early generation seeds for farmers that will make the country the future world food market? NASC is a regulatory body that does not engage in direct seed production activities.

We however play a signifi cant role in determining the national seed needs of the country and coordinate the activities of the stakeholders like Research Institutions, Seed Companies, other seed producers to ensure that targets for Early Generation Seeds (Breeder and Foundation) and subsequent seed generations are met. We have developed a roadmap for the production of adequate quantity of EGS for the nation. We have equally sent a special proposal to the Federal government of the need to give special attention to the production of EGS as this is our foundation to a secure nation as you know that a nation is not secure if it is not food secure, and there is no food security if there is no seed security.

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