By James Emejo
The Director General, National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo, has urged both the federal and state governments to consider providing seeds as palliatives to farmers amidst the devastating impact of COVID-19 in the country.
He also said the seed industry currently has about 81,000 metric tons of certified seeds of rice, maize, sorghum, soyabean, cowpea, 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 during the current planting season.
However, he said giving seed palliatives would serve as a subsidy as well as ensure that seeds become available to most farmers, who no longer have money to purchase seeds for the planting season, having exhausted their savings on food during the recent lockdown by the government to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking to journalists via a web conference on the preparation and readiness for the 2020 planting season, including strategies put in place to help the seed industry cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NASC boss also urged the government and individuals who intend to give seed palliatives to ensure that the inputs are sourced from NASC accredited seed companies.
He said: “We are advocating that seeds should be used as palliatives because a lot of people have spent their money trying to buy food during this pandemic and a lot of them particularly grassroots farmers don’t have money to buy seeds.
“Seeds should be used as palliatives instead of giving food or money to farmers, that seeds should be given to them as palliatives. And this is another way of actually subsidising and ensuring that seeds become available to farmers.”
Ojo, said the council was doing all within its reach to ensure that seed sector related activities are sustained and promoted amidst the pandemic for the country to be able to have continuous supply of adequate quantities of food for its population.
He added: “As the industry is preparing to push this quantity of certified seeds to the market, companies, like every farmer, are also preparing to go to their fields to plant so that we can have adequate quantities of seeds for the next cropping season.”
The DG further called on the government to facilitate smooth movement of farmers as reports have highlighted some bottlenecks despite the recent directive by President Muhammadu Buhari.
He noted that government’s measures on mobility have negatively impacted on the movement of seed companies and farmers to point of sales/agro-dealers and informal markets.
He said the production and supply of early generation seed and importantly the quality assurance activities including seed field inspection and laboratory testing had also been negatively impacted.
Nonetheless, he said the council would work with various stakeholders to implement various coping actions which will help the sector to continue to function even in the midst of the crisis.
He said efforts were ongoing to, among other things, structure the trade of seed and agro-inputs in designated markets and on specific days while complying with social distancing directions of relevant agencies of government at both local, state and federal levels.