Dele Ogbodo in Abuja
The acting Director-General of the Textile Manufacturers, an arm of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Hamma Kwajafa, has called on the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd to engage Nigerian farmers in high level education on the management and cultivation of the Genetically Modified (GM) Bt-cotton soon be released into the market.
Kwajafa cited Burkina Faso, United States of America (USA), Brazil, India, Argentina, and Greece, as countries where the genetically modified Bt-Cotton is commercially being cultivated and a major source of revenue.
In a statement signed by him and made available to the media in Abuja weekend, he said the application submitted by the agricultural company was for the consideration of environmental release and placing in market of genetically modified insect-protected (Bt) cotton in reviving the textile industry.
Underscoring the need for the revival of the cotton sub sector in the country, he said: “The textile industry in Nigeria is a strategic non-oil industry and the largest industry in the country after oil and agriculture.
“In addition, it is the largest in sub-Saharan Africa. Its potential is derived from it being located in Nigeria, a country blessed with abundant raw material potential and especially cotton and polyester chips (petrochemical). The industry has a high potential for added value generation from raw material to finished goods and is a major employer of urban and rural populations.”
Kwajafa said about 30,000 Nigerians are employed in the textile industry and an additional one million small farmers and labourers are both in direct cotton production and within the value chain, supporting five million more people, adding that this is a sharp contrast from over 400,000 people employed across over 250 textile mills in the country in the 80s.
He admitted that the lack of confidence by participants across the cotton value chain over the years was restricting much-needed investment, and that one of the root causes of this was tied to the most important input in the industry, the cotton crop. According to him, cotton farming has suffered over the years because the opportunity cost of planting cotton has remained high, adding that cotton does not compete favourably against other lower risk crops which has led to a dwindling of farmers involved in cultivating the crop over time.
The Acting DG, said the recent submission of an application for the environmental release and placing in market of GM insect protected (Bt) cotton can play a huge role in restoring cotton farming as well as reviving and repositioning the textile sector as a welcome development capable of reviving the entire industry.
“The recent establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency by government was to help safeguard human health and environmental safety concerns that the introduction of one of these critical technologies may generate among members of the public”, he said.
Adding: “The agency, in furtherance of its mandate, has commenced the process of reviewing the application presently before it. It is currently undergoing a science-based review process together with relevant regulatory agencies and independent experts to ascertain that the proposed product is safe to human and animal health and to the environment.”
On the expected increase in yield of the bt-cotton, he said recently the textile industry had shortage of the commodity and even when available it surpassed the international price. “So, the thinking is that when it is produced in surplus, local industry should be able to purchase it at regulated prices and again farmers would be able to export.”