It is my pleasure and honor to deliver this keynote address at this year’s Seed Fair and Farmer’s Field Day, taking place at the instance of the National Agricultural Seed Council of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in conjunction with SEEDAN and IITA. I congratulate the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) for moving from its rented accommodation in the city to its headquarters here in Sheda.
2. It is quite heart-warming to note that this annual event is aimed at creating awareness among our great farmers and the farming communities. It is also aimed at showcasing the availability of different arrays of highly improved crop varieties that can enhance the productivity and increase national food production. It is, therefore, a welcome development that the Seed Council has over the years maintained this tradition by keeping faith with our farmers by commemorating this day, in line with our commitment of providing adequate support to our esteemed farmers, despite the present economic challenges.
3. The Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, launched the Green Alternative Agenda aimed at diversifying the economy and stimulating economic growth through increased agricultural productivity, food security, production of raw materials to revitalize the ailing agro-allied industries and increase foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria. In this regard, Government has also put in place a great deal of measures to increase agricultural productivity. These include:
– bringing back the Federal Universities of Agriculture to the FMARD to enable them participate actively in the development, expansion and improvement of the seed system, and focus on their primary aim of establishment.
– purchasing and distributing agro-chemicals to reduce the devastating damage of pests, especially Fall armyworm on crops.
– Provision of drought and flood tolerant crop varieties to mitigate the effect of these Natural disasters on crop production. For example the newly released Faro 66 and 67 Rice varieties for flood prone areas.
– ensuring availability of adequate early generation seeds (EGS) of all crop varieties, to sustain the seed value chain.
– reduction in youth unemployment through provision of soft loans to young entrepreneurs for investment in agricultural enterprises.
– encouragement of direct foreign investment in agriculture.
– collaboration with CBN to expand the anchors borrowers programme to cover many crops, livestock and other essential agricultural products for industrial growth aimed at increasing farmer’s income, food security and reduction in post-harvest losses, through immediate uptake of farmers produce.
– part- payment of debts owed to agro-input suppliers for seeds and other input distributed during the erstwhile ATA programme.
- It is noteworthy that government is boosting our agricultural exports by putting in place measures to facilitate zero reject of our agricultural exports. These include on-going sensitization tours to sensitize producers and processors to enable our agro-exports meet the prescribed international standards.
- Government has also embarked on aggressive dissemination of proven Agricultural technologies and training of farmers through massive extension programmes, thus the Federal Department of Agricultural extension is been directed to collaborate with NASC on dissemination of seed related technologies.
- I am happy to share with you that all these efforts. They are yielding positive results as evident in anticipated bumper harvest in this year cropping season. The National Bureau of Statistics has also recently reported that our economy is witnessing positive growth and GDP, attributable mainly to increased Agricultural productivity and exports, as well as other impactful policies of Government.
- Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, quality seed is paramount to enhancing agricultural productivity as it contributes more than 50% of increased crop productivity per unit area. It is not only the cheapest input, but it is the critical input in enhancing the efficiency of other agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, agro chemicals, irrigation and capital.
- Government, through the NASC, has, over the years, been engaged in regulating the activities of seed producing entities aimed at ensuring that enough quantities of improved quality seeds are available for farmer’s use and meet increased exports to west Africa and other regions of the continent. Both the public and private sectors are being assisted to ensure that improved seeds are made available in all the agricultural production areas, especially the rural communities where most of the crop production take place. In addition to availability, increase in awareness of improved quality seeds to boost productivity is also paramount in the programme of government, thus the organization of this field day which is to highlight and showcase the potentials of newly released improved crop varieties for farmers to adopt in order to boost their productivity.
- Therefore, today’s event is aimed at enlightening farmers, students and other stakeholders on the benefits of using improved seeds as against the farmers “saved seeds” which is currently the prevalent practice in the rural farming communities. I understand that elite varieties from both the public and private sector are included in the entries being demonstrated. This is a good indication that the private sector has tapped into the favorable environment created by government in order to contribute its quota to increase agricultural productivity and food security.
- This Administration is committed to safeguarding the livelihoods of our farmers. As part of the measures taken to curb the menace of the unscrupulous seed merchants, I am delighted to note that the Seed Council, which has the statutory responsibility of enforcing the provisions of the Seed law, has embarked on public enlightenment and sensitization programmes in collaboration with the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC). Also Seed law enforcement surveillance is mounted in all States of the Federation, to ensure the availability of quality seeds to our farmers. These has led to confiscation of some poor quality seeds being sold in our markets and agro-shops which will be symbolically burnt today to send signals to the culprits that it is no longer business as usual.
- This Seed Fair and Farmers’ Field Day we are witnessing today is unique, as it will enhance the production of maize, sorghum , soya beans, and other crops in this immediate environment of FCT and Nigeria at large. I, therefore, urge you to take advantage of the lessons and benefits offered by this field day to adopt the use of improved quality seeds.
- In the coming years, and budgets, we shall ensure that adequate provision is made for seed improvement for the benefit of our farmers and other stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Undoubtedly, as aforesaid, agricultural production/ productivity begins with quality seeds and seedlings. In the same vein, poor seeds lead to poor harvest and poor harvest accentuate poverty, human misery and the unattractiveness of agriculture to our teeming youth. On the flip side of the coin is that higher yields not only lead to higher incomes but also improved quality of life and greater well-being of the citizenry. With higher yields, farmers can easily pay back their loans thereby improving both the credit administration system and the resilience of the agricultural sector to internal and external shocks.
- I thank you for your kind attention, and express my sincere appreciation to NASC and its partners for inviting me to grace this occasion.