NAQS, NASC, IITA partner to promote agricultural export

Dr. Phillip Ojo, The Director-General of NAS

COLLABORATION between National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS) and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has been formed to develop a strategy to overcome some of the critical institutional bottlenecks to ensure domestic and international regulatory compliance essential for promoting export trade.

This relied on using a suite of fit-for-purpose digital tools and knowledge products for export seed certification, pest information updates, pest risk assessment and pest surveillance by NAQS in accordance with WTO-SPS guidelines,  and to establish linkages with domestic seed certification program of  NASC  for simultaneous inspections of seed production fields.

Prototypes of these technologies,  the Cassava Disease Surveillance and the Cassava Seed Tracker programmes, developed by IITA in collaboration with NAQS and  NASC are being pilot tested. The proposed plan will build on these pilots in developing appropriate technologies, products and procedures to enable effective and efficient delivery of regulatory functions.

The  workshop  was  held  in  connection  with  the  World Trade Organisation Standards and Trade Development Facility (WTO-STDF) Project  Proposal  Grant  (PPG) titled  “Strengthening  phytosanitary  capacity  in  Nigeria  for  facilitating  market  access: Developing  and  integrating  digital  system  for  pest  surveillance,  pest  reporting,  seed certification and traceability” implemented by IITA, NASC and NAQS.

The Director-General of NASC, Dr. Phillip Ojo in his opening remarks thanked the STDF and IITA for creating the laudable platform to enhance the development of the seed industry especially as it affects exports/import of quality seed through the deployment of ICT in its certification activities.

He reeled out the impact the project will have on the seed industry starting with the renewed synergy between the sister agencies involved in the project and the areas of traceability which will go a long way of creating the needed acceptance of Nigerian seeds in the international markets. He informed gathering of the plans to make Nigeria the hub of seed trade in the sub-region.

The Coordinating Director of NAQS, Dr. Vincent Isegbe, in his remarks also lauded the STDF and IITA in facilitating the project and elucidated the importance of ICT on certification and phytosanitary issues, quoting that ICT can serve the quickest platform for addressing the issues in seed sector development.

He conveyed stakeholders to support the initiative because of the large impact on export and import trade and securing national agriculture from the invasive and emerging pathogens.

Dr Lava Kumar, representing the Director R4D IITA, Dr R Asiedu conveyed the warm wishes of the Director and DG IITA, D. Nteraya Saginga to the meeting. He informed the meeting of the laudable partnership with NAQS and NASC since IITA establishment, and the positive impact of the partnership on Nigerian Agriculture as well as in sub-Saharan Africa in ensuring availability of quality seeds to the country and the region.

He further added that success of the IITA  crop improvement programs depended on  seed flow between  the countries and vibrant seed sector to disseminate improved varieties. The on-going partnership with STDF effort is necessary endeavor to realize desired impact of the technologies and improve smallholder livelihoods.

He also assured stakeholders that the project is expected to strengthen the phytosanitary system of the country and position Nigeria as a qualified player in the international seed market.

Dr Gnonlonfin Benoit, Leader of ECOWAS Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) portfolio and desk officer of USAID/ECOWAS SPS, lauded the team for their efforts in outing the paper together and gave a brief on all the standard setting bodies which are needed for gaining access to the market and also lauded the giant strides of ECOWAS in ensuring a disease-free sub-region. He also stressed the need for e-certification as a needed tool for smooth trans-border trade and pleaded for the team to ensure that the deadlines are met with quality support letters from stakeholders.

Export seed trade relies on compliance with domestic seed production regulations overseen by NASC, and compliance to international phytosanitary regulations of IPPC and WTO-STDF overseen by NAQS.

Fulfillment of these obligations requires effective and functional phytosanitary capacity to  conduct field inspections, pre-export inspections and ability to trace products along the supply chain, knowledge on pests and pathogens,  as well as stakeholder linkages for timely and cost-effective service delivery.

Similar regulations apply to the export or import of all types of agricultural commodities from/to  Nigeria.  However, several bottlenecks are constraining effective implementation of regulations and to backstop burgeoning Nigerian seed industry ambition to tap international markets.

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