‘Food security may remain elusive’

Rice

By Ladesope Ladelokun

Coupled with the threat posed by floods, the Acting Director-General of National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), Prof Alex Akpa, has raised the alarm that Nigeria cannot attain food security with the way agriculture is practised in the country.

Akpa expressed worry that most of the innovations currently being adopted by nations that are food-secure are yet to be embraced in Nigeria, noting that much of “Nigeria’s agriculture is at subsistence level and this cannot address food insecurity”.

He spoke at a virtual conference organised by Agro Times with the theme: “Aggregating Sustainable Innovations for Food Security.”

Akpa said it was imperative to point out that food security has become a contemporary development issue given the role it plays in transforming people’s livelihood, promoting good health and mitigating endemic poverty.

Commending President Buhari on the current border closure that has, according to him, made farming attractive, the Ag.DG said it is important to follow swiftly with available innovations, business models and policies that can increase food production and turn the economy around.

Speaking on what NABDA is doing to tackle the challenges of COVID-19, hunger and malnutrition through modern biotechnology, Apka remarked: “As scientists, we are striving to find solutions to the challenges facing mankind through the deployment of science and technology.

“This webinar, therefore, provides us with the opportunity to let you know the strategies NABDA has fashioned out to take advantage of modern biotechnology to address this monster- COVID 19 pandemic.

Biotechnology is a very powerful tool that has the potential of helping us address a lot of situations including disease outbreaks, hunger, malnutrition, insects/pest’s infestation and drought.

“NABDA as a government agency mandated to lead the deployment of biotechnology in the country has over the last two decades worked with both national and international scientists to ensure that Nigeria and Nigerians enjoy the best of the technology in a safe and productive manner.”

On the agency’s plan to support the textile industry, Akpa said: “In 2018, the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) in partnership with the Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Bayer and Mahyco Agricultural Nigeria Ltd concluded the development, commercialization and deployment of MRC 7377 BGII (MAHYCO C 567 BGII) and MRC 7361 BGII MAHYCO C 571 BGII MAHYCO C 567 BGII and MAHYCO C 571 BGII varieties of Transgenic hybrid Cotton.

These varieties are high yielding, tolerant to Bollworm complex and are expected to meet the challenges of raw material supply in the textile industry.

“We have strategically chosen cotton as our crops of pride because it reflects one of our national needs and efforts towards transforming our industry.

READ ALSO: Food insecurity prevalent in Lagos, Kano, Rivers, Abuja — NBS

With well over 180 million Nigerians needing textile for clothing and other products, cotton lint, a raw material for textile manufacturing, has been a major item on the Nigerian import list.

Today we have set the stage for selfsufficiency in the production of cotton as industrial raw material with the subsequent transformation of the textile industry.

“Our confidence is that the private sector, including seed companies, textile industries and ginneries will complement our commitments by taking up the challenges of full-scale commercial deployment.”

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