In a bid to boost farming and distribution of food, the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) has certified more than 80,000 metric tons of seeds across the country, according to NASC director-general Philip Ojo.

“The industry has available at the disposal of accredited seed companies across the country about 81,000 metric tons of certified seeds of rice, maize, sorghum, soybean, cow pea, millet, groundnut, wheat, sesame and potato that are ready for deployment and purchase by farmers for the production of food and raw materials for Nigerians,” he said.

NASC is the agency charged with the responsibility of developing and regulating the country’s seed industry. According to the director, a seed is the beginning of agriculture, and seeds must be secured for food security to be guaranteed.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic which has affected the sector, Ojo said the agency is advocating for state governments to issue seeds as palliatives to farmers. Although the industry is preparing to release a large number of seeds in order to have enough for the next planting season.

 To achieve this, the agency, in conjunction with Wageningen University and Sahel Consulting introduced a survey (quick scan survey) last month to access first hand the impact of COVID-19 on the sector. “The scan has presented to us key areas of alert that are most impacted by the COVID-19 and also recommended coping strategies that will guide our future actions to ensure that we continue to supply our dear farmers with the best quality afloat during this trying period,” the director said.

The survey, titled Seed Alert shows that mobility restrictions hampered access to markets by farmers, seed companies, and agro-dealers, which resulted in a hike in prices and reduction of seeds affordability for farmers. This, Ojo said posed a severe negative impact on the industry.

Undoubtedly, coronavirus poses a huge threat to food security in many countries of the world. According to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation, some 820 million people around the world are currently experiencing chronic hunger – not eating enough caloric energy to live normal lives. According to the FAO, about 113 million from this number are coping with acute severe insecurity – hunger so severe that it poses an immediate threat to their lives or livelihoods and renders them reliant on external assistance to get by.

The FAO had said it expected to see disruption in the food supply chain this month. Backing this up, Ojo said the production and supply of early generation seed are also negatively impacted and more importantly the quality assurance activities including seed field inspection and laboratory testing.

Due to the lockdown in some states, the food situation is most likely to worsen with farmers having to cope with movement restrictions and paralyzed supply chains. Transport restrictions and quarantine measures are likely to impede farmers’ access to markets, thus hindering productive capacities and preventing them from selling their produce.

Having identified some of the key challenges the seed industry is battling with as a result of the pandemic, NASC said it is working to implement an array of actions to keep the sector breathing in the midst of the crisis.

By Ahmed Iyanda.

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