How low investment in seeds hampers Nigeria’s food security

How low investment in seeds hampers Nigeria’s food security

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Access to adequate, secured and timely supply of quality seeds that can improve farmers’ yield per hectare is a major hurdle on the nation’s quest to return to its heydays with agriculture.

Nigeria’s failure to invest in seeds has created a yawning seed gap estimated at N525 billion, leaving farmers to low quality inputs that portend danger to crop production and the country’s food-sufficiency target.

“Most of the seeds in the market today are imported and this is because we do not produce enough seeds. The research institutes that are mandated to produce improved varieties of seeds are not doing anything,” Abiodun Olorundenro, manager, Aquashoot Limited, told BusinessDay.

“There are lots of adulterated seeds in the country today because demand is much higher than supply. The level of investments in the industry is low. To bridge the gap, a lot of merchants are importing these seeds for farmers,” Olorundenro said.

Despite the growth recorded in the numbers of seed companies in Nigeria, investment in the subsector is still low as farmers still find it difficult to easily access improved seeds and seedlings to cultivate.

“A lot of farmers are no longer growing cotton because of low patronage and lack of inputs. The inputs we get from the government usually come very late. When you delay in planting cotton, it affects the productivity,” said Abubakar Shiyaki, a cotton farmer in Niger state.

“When we buy our seeds ourselves, we only buy low quality seeds. As a result of all these challenges, a lot of farmers growing cotton are now growing other crops because they cannot break even with cotton,” Shiyaki said.

Nigeria’s seed industry potential stands at N777.38 billion, while what is locally available is estimated at N252.35 billion, thereby leaving a gap of N525.04 billion. Experts, however, suggest that this figure may have risen by five to 15 percent since 2015.

The total national seed requirements for eight major crops, including maize and rice, in Africa’s most populous country, stood at 388,690.64 metric tons (MT) in 2015, while the quantity available was 126,173 MT, leaving a yawning gap of 262,518 MT.

Experts in the agricultural sector say that the government needs to prevent the supply-demand gap from widening further to prevent creating a fertile ground for the proliferation of unregistered and incompetent operators who flood the market with fake or poor-quality seeds.

They explained that legal backing from the National Assembly would empower the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) to carry out its statutory mandate of regulation and supervision of seeds more effectively and seamlessly.

To bridge the gaps, experts have called for collaborations between the government and the private sector to drive investments in seed production in the country.

The experts also urged the government to create an enabling environment that will spur investments in seed production while enforcing stronger regulations to protect local investments.

Afioluwa Mogaji, chief executive officer, X-ray Farms Limited, said no local seed company produces hybrid seeds for vegetables in the country.

According to Mogaji, this is a huge opportunity for local firms to invest in vegetable hybrid seeds, stating that the value of the tomato seeds segment alone is valued at N2billion.

Framers seek hybrid seeds owing to their productivity advantage, but most of them are imported, leading to high cost of production of farm produce and high prices of food items in the country.

Josephine Okojie

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