The National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) has ratified and approved the licencing of 158 new seed entrepreneurs of different categories, even as the agency acquired a digital molecular diagnostic facility.
The Director General of the NASC, Dr Philip Olusegun Ojo disclosed this on Wednesday to journalists during a news conference at the NASC headquarters in Abuja.
Giving the breakdown, Ojo said that the new seed entrepreneurs were in addition with the existing 156 already in operation, bringing the total number of seed entrepreneurs in the country to 314, made of four large scale, seven medium scale, 39 small scale, 223 producer seller and 20 seed dealers.
He said that the licencing was approved by the governing board of the Council under the chairmanship of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh.
He buttressed that most of the newly licenced companies were not green horns in the the business but are mostly it-growers with long years of experience and have acquired necessary facilities in relevant categories they have been classified into after due assessment by the NASC.
Ojo said that the increase in the number of the licence was borne out of the determination to allow many qualified entrepreneurs to explore the budding liberalised landscape of the seed industry in the country.
He said, “We all know that presently, the seed supply-demand gap is still wide and there are more calls from our neighbouring countries that look up to us for their seed supply. This underscores the point that the industry is not yet saturated as some may think.”
Ojo stressed that NASC was not just concerned about the numbers of the seed entrepreneurs but the quality, adding that the Council is critical of the quality of seed churned out to farmers.
The DG said: “We conducted a recertification exercise of all initial 156 companies in a bid to evaluate and assess their infrastructure, personnel, capacity and capability, production capacity and operational efficiency to ascertain if they still meet up their status or rating.
“The result of this exercise led to the upgrading of six companies who had improved their infrastructure, quality assurance system and personnel while 75 were downgraded”.
According to him, the downgrade which can be traced to the lull in the seed industry owing to backlogs of debts owed to the companies does not mean a weakness in the industry but it is strategic to checkmate the activities and promote desire for quality and healthy competition among the entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, the director general has explained that the newly acquired molecular diagnostic facility was part of the Council’s resolve to ensure that quality and disease-free seeds/seedling are made available to farmers across the country.
Ojo added that the Council was introducing the diagnostic testing of seed, using molecular diagnosis.
“This facility is new in the sub-region and will be made available to the public at a minimal fee after all loose standard operating procedures have been finanlised,” he said.
He, however, appealed to the Federal Government to increase the budgetary funding of the agency to enable it to achieve its mandates not only to the Nigerian farmers but to the West African sub-region.