THE National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) has vowed to punish producers of agricultural seeds who compromise seeds quality even as it is determined to making cassava the prime crop in the country.
To this end, the council has begun collaboration with major implementating partners, Bill and Melinda Gates funded Building an economically sustainable integrated Cassava System ,(Basics) which started in 2016 to develop cassava seed value chain for Nigeria by addressing factors that contributed to low productivity of cassava planting materials.
The Director General of the National Agricultural Seeds Council NASC Dr.Philip Ojo, gave the warning in Lokoja, during the three-day training workshop for proposed Licenced Seed Inspectors LSI under Basic Third Party Certification.
He noted that the implenting partners of the Phase 1 project which includes the National Agricultural seed Council, NASC ,National Root Crops Research Institute NRCRI , Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Context Global Development, (CGD ), Fera Science LTD and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) aimed at developing Virus free seeds and seed tracking devices for efficiency and digitisation of cassava seed certification.
The DG said based on the success of the first phase of the programme, the donor agency was satisfied with the feedback which prompted the approval for the second phase which was launched in June this year.
He said the second phase will emphasis on the escalating engagement of third party agents to additional three states , namely Kogi , Abia and Oyo states saying the workshop is very key for the stakeholders.
According to him the Agricultural Seeds Act 2019, empowers the council to outsourcing seed certification to further entrench efficiency in the seed certification process in the country.
He said after painstaking screening of aspirants twenty candidates were selected to be trained as third party agents that will carry out private seed certification for cassava in Kogi state just as 18 agents had earlier been trained in Benue state .
He added that Nigeria must join the global trend by engaging private entities to complement the National seeds regulator like their counterparts of South Africa, Zimbabwe , Zambia , Ghana to mention but a few.
He disclosed the importance of cassava to the realisation of the national efforts to diversify the economy from petroleum to agriculture, stressing that collaboration with trained third party agents would bolster the programme as envisaged by the council.
Dr. Ojo explained that the Council had so far certified 650 hectares in 2017 1000 hectares in 2018, and 1500 hectares in 2019 of cassava seed fields while anticipating upsurge of improved cassava planting materials for increase hectrage for its production.
He said it was to lessen the burden on the certificating officers of the council who have successfully carried out over 40,000 hectares certification that the council decided to engage the third party agents and charge them to work in partnership with few officers in cassava quality seed assurance to deliver on their mandate of making quality seeds available to the end users.
He promise to provide guidelines for authorising private certification agents in Nigeria once the document is ratified by the Governing Board of NASC which confers on the Seed Licensed Inspectors almost the same powers with the Certification officers of the council.
While assuring them of the cooperation of the Council and other partners in regular update of their knowledge and capacity , charged them to utilise the training for quality service delivery to rid the country of substandard seed materials .
Reverend Gabriel Aina , a participant while speaking with Independent commended the National Seeds Council for the training as it has afforded them the opportunity to know the knity gritty of what it takes to have a bumper harvest.
He added that the training has equipped him to know the difference between crops and seeds which in the past , he will just go to the market and buy whatever is called seed without knowing the standard, stressing that ignorance has affected many farmers with poor yields.
He advised nations to identify their area of strength as Nigeria has comparative advantage in Cassava production therefore all hands must be on deck to explore this potential for economic growth and development of the country, promising to deploy the skills learnt to make a difference in the cassava value chain.
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