Stakeholders raise alarm over contractors posing as seed companies

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Stakeholders in the agricultural sector and seed companies have raised alarm over claims that contractors, who had little to do with seeds, often pose as seed companies to access government interventions.

The stakeholders told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja at the end of Feed Africa Advocacy Network Stakeholders Roundtable with the theme: Improving Farmers’ Access to Improved Seeds.

They said the development was a threat to efforts at ensuring food security.

The stakeholders alleged that the practice had led to a lot of seed companies not selling seeds, adding that the contractors allegedly source for poor quality seeds from other sources leading to low yield when used.

While decrying that it was a major problem threatening food security in the country, they maintained that the development had led to inability of farmers to access quality seeds to boost production.

Adeyemi Ayomide from Dizengoff, a seed company, said a lot of politics had gone into the seed business.

He added that many contractors, who were not in the business of seed were posing as one having realised that it was a big business.

Dizengoff, who said “politics is the bane of accessing quality seed”, noted that the real seed companies were finding it difficult to have deals.

He said this was because the contractors got substandard seeds for very cheap amount and disposed at cheaper rates than the real seed companies.

Adesanya Oluwatoyin, a scientist from National Cereals Research Institute (NCRI) tasked National Seed Council to take up the challenge as a regulatory body to scrutinise seed companies periodically.

Oluwatoyin noted that such step would help to check alleged sharp practices by some people who often took advantage of opportunities that abound in the seed industry to make quick gains at the detriment of ensuring food security.

Esther Adebayo, from Bayer Nigeria, a seed company, said fears raised about non availability of quality seeds in some quarters were uncalled for, saying the company she works for often ensured standard practice.

“Politicisation is one of the reasons for the challenges in system.”

According to her, the quality seeds “sit with the seed companies while the adulterated ones are being patronised because they are cheaper.”

Adebayo called on NASC to closely monitor companies to ascertain quality of seeds.

Onwuka Charles, a representative from Nigeria Agriculture Seed Council (NASC), said the mandate of the council was to ensure that “farmers have access to quality seeds”.

He stressed that the challenges facing quality seeds in the country ought to be taken seriously, adding that the council was putting measures in place to checkmate seed companies.

According to him, 314 seed companies were registered with the council, while one quality control officer was been attached to each of the companies.

Charles said that stakeholders were privy to the council’s reports and website to guard their activities.

Ogeleye Temitope from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the ministry was doing its best in terms of interventions, promotional policy and repositioning of the research institutes.

He, however, expressed concern that reports available showed that farmers were not buying improved seeds from seed companies.

Chika Okeke, the Chief Executive Officer, Feed Africa Advocacy Network, said it had become necessary for major players to come together to find lasting solution to concerns of inability of farmers to access improved and quality seeds to boost production.

He said that a good number of rural farmers did not have access to seeds making it worrisome in view of conversations around ensuring food sufficiency in the country.

Okeke also noted that “farmers do not have access to the right information with regards to where to access good seeds and what constitutes quality seeds, and even when they have the right information, fund becomes a problem.”

He said ensuring that farmers had access to quality seed was one of the focuses of the Feed Africa Network.

“We want to tell farmers who have the seeds the best way to finance quality seeds.

“And are the companies able to take risks to give the seed to farmers and who is bearing the risks? This is where NIRSAL comes in.”

He said besides farmers not having access to seeds, another major challenge was that seed companies were not selling seed.

Okeke stressed that the research institutes which as major player were equally not carrying out their mandate as they should, adding that “there is a wide gap between research and what the farmer knows”.

“Quality seed alone will not do the magic.

“So, we need to understand how big the information gap is with regard to other practices that would ensure improved yield, for instance the state of soil.

“No matter how good a seed is, it is useless when placed on a dead soil.”

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