Experts in the cassava seed sector have disclosed that the country was unable to meet the 2020 demand of improved and disease-free planting materials worth more than N10billion, saying that it was an indication of the untapped opportunities in the cassava seed system.
The experts, drawn from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) and National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), made the disclosure recently during a courtesy visit to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, in his office in Abuja.
The experts who paid the courtesy call in the framework of an IITA-managed project known as the Building an Economically Sustainable Integrated Cassava Seed System, Phase 2, (BASICS-II), stressed that the cassava seed system would open windows for food security, jobs and income generation.
IITA Director for Development & Delivery, Dr. Alfred Dixon, who led the delegation, had disclosed that Nigerian farmers and seed entrepreneurs could not take advantage of the huge demand for certified cassava stems from cassava growers.
“Last year, the demand for certified cassava stems from cassava growers was estimated at N10 billion,” he said. “Unfortunately, this opportunity was not fully taken by farmers as it was difficult to get certified stems of improved varieties,”
The cassava breeder however noted that IITA through the BASICS-II project was already working with partners and farmers to bridge the gap by creating a formal seed system for cassava that links breeder seeds with foundation seed producers and foundation seed producers to commercial seed entrepreneurs.
His words: “The commercial seed producers will thereafter sell to the cassava root producers…and cassava root producers will subsequently process into various end products or sell surplus roots to processing industries in the Country. In this fashion, we will be creating jobs and income generation opportunities for young people that will serve as seed entrepreneurs and modern producers of cassava. Furthermore, the use of certified seeds will increase the national productivity of cassava”.
Dixon also called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to support the IITA GoSeeds and NRCRI Umudike Seed—two Early Generation seeds companies that are imperative for sustainable seed production that will feed the demand pool for commercial seed producers.
Calling for greater collaboration between FMARD and IITA and national partners – NASC and NRCRI, Dr. Dixon urged the government to scale out the BASICS-II project model to other cassava growing states since the project is currently covering Benue, Kogi, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Oyo and Delta States.
“Thirdly, we are appealing that the government should ensure that only certified seeds by NASC are procured from the Commercial Seeds Entrepreneurs. Lastly, you may recall the great contributions of IITA in the previous Presidential Initiatives on Cassava where we formed National consortia that successfully prevented the entrance of the devastating Uganda variant of the Cassava Mosaic Disease into the Country. Also, the last Agricultural Transformation Agenda was stimulated with IITA, NRCRI and partners’ research outputs. We want to support you by continuing to play a higher and pivotal role by becoming the technical hub for FMARD for cassava innovations that could also be scaled to other clonally propagated crops in Nigeria” he added.
In his response, Nanono pledged that the federal government would support the cassava seed sector owing to its strategic importance as a food security crop and an income earner.
He called for the involvement of the private sector in the cassava value chain, adding that it would create the much-needed jobs and wealth to transform the economy.
“As a ministry, we want to support the private sector for sustainability,” he stressed, adding that the ministry will continue to create appropriate policy measures for successful production and distribution of cassava product to ensure availability of food and raw materials for industries.
It would be recalled that last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) instituted a program to develop cassava seed growers on 100,000 hectares across the country. The program is believed to have contributed to the huge demand in planting materials that surpassed supply.
The Executive Director, NRCRI, Prof Ukpabi Joseph Ukpabi, said the collaboration with IITA had been beneficial to the country, adding that the partnership made Nigeria the largest producer of cassava.
Similarly, the Director General, NASC, Dr Philip Ojo said the collaboration with IITA especially through the BASICS-II project was helping in the certification of seeds, making Nigeria a reference point to other nations for quality seed certification and regulation.
Members of the delegation were Prof Ukpabi Joseph Ukpabi, Executive Director, National Root Crops Research Institute, Umudike; the Director General, National Agricultural Seed Council, Dr Philip Ojo; Project Manager, BASICS-II, Prof Lateef Sanni; IITA GoSeed Manager, Dr Mercy Diebiru-Ojo; Project Manager, NextGen Cassava Project, Prof Chiedozie Egesi; Project Administrator, Ezinne Ibe; and Advocacy, Promotion & Outreach Lead, Godwin Atser.