NO doubt, Nigeria agricultural sector is facing a lot of challenges in this present time. These challenges have directly affected the populace through high cost of food prices, to an extent, unavailability of some food crops and many more.
These challenges which include insecurity which has made farmers abandon their farms, high cost of farm inputs, and and some policies which affect farmers directly, are currently leading the country into food crisis.
Some agencies of government which have the mandate to grow food or support farmers are making efforts to salvage the situation by initiating some policies and also fine tuning already existing policies.
The National Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), which has the mandate to ensure seamless export of Nigerian agro-products, has already started developing exportation templates for some crops.
NAQS said their mandate is also to prevent the introduction, spread of diseases, pest, contaminants of animals, plant, aquatic resources and their products so that we can secure our international trade and also secure the Nigerian economy.
The Director General, Vincent Isigbe said the NAQS ensured that those commodities or those agricultural produce which are going outside Nigeria were of the correct standards and specifications in terms of the international requirements to ensure that these satisfied those standards.
“So, we do backward integration, we inform the critical stakeholders who are the producers, suppliers, the warehouse managers and all the people along the value chain that this is the requirement for the international community for this commodity because these standards or rules keep changing from time to time.
“So, we have set up what we call the export certification value chain where we have set our standard for those commodities in terms of the 5 value chain operators that is the state government, the NAQS, the producers, suppliers and the exporters, so that each and everyone of them know what to do at a particular time along the value chain they operate”, Dr Isigbe noted.
He said the move helped to stabilise the market by ensuring that there are good food safety standards for us to be able to certify and export at the end of the day.
He said for the producers or the farmers, NAQS ensure that if they are going to use any pesticide, they must use a particular type of pesticide and they were educated on how to use it.
“The NAQS has gone further to try and find alternatives to those synthetic pesticides in furtherance of securing the food safety.
“We are working on that, we have a very strong committee, involving the critical stakeholders agencies of government and 3 research departments in the universities, they have joined us and we are working on that alternative bio pesticides so that we will minimally use the synthetic pesticides where these is need to”.
“These are some of the things we are doing as an agency of government within the armbit of our mandate to secure the food security of Nigeria.
“In doing that too by the mere fact that people have opportunity to export, there is now the tendency to increase the level of production and to make food availability better for the nation, it is from that surplus that they will sell some and use some for their own personal use at home”, he added.
For Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), the Council has embarked on introduction of early maturity seeds.
The Executive Secretary of the Council, Professor Garba Sharubutu, said because of the nature of crops that we have, and in order to ensure food security, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, is diverting his attention to quick and early maturing crops which includes rice, cowpea, maize, sorghum millet.
He said as a research institute, the Minister is saying it must stock some of these elite seeds, which means high quality seeds because if there is any input farming depends on, it is quality seeds.
“So, right now, we are gathering data on what do we think most of our research institutes will be able to come up with, like National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHOURT) in Ibadan, do we have enough seeds, do we have enough okra seed, that is the directive we have been given, let us make sure that we have that”, he noted.
Professor Sharubutu further said Council commenced establishing Outreach Centres for all the Colleges and Research Institutes to further reach the hinterland.
“Each of the the Colleges and Research Institutes have Outreach Centres, we have out-stations and outreach centres, before the Minister came in, these centres were a bit dilapidated, he said we must make sure that the centres are available because they are closer to the people.
“He (Nanono) has also approved establishment of Outreach Centres for some colleges of agriculture, they (Centres) are not research institutes, they are just outreach centres.
“So, apart from ensuring that those existing are brought back to life, he is saying that those that are far away, we should be able to make sure that we establish some of the.
“If you look at what is happening in the South East, we don’t have many of these research institutes there, so the only thing we can do is for the outreach centres to be established there.
“Right now, we are trying to establish one in Anambra, Lagos is trying to establish its own branch in Enugu, and we are also giving permission for lagos to also look at the possibility of establishing something in Cross River or Bayelsa, and those ones has to do with marine that is the fishes.
He said last year, the Minister approved that the extension services must be boosted, and the Council bought extension teaching materials for all our research institutes and Colleges.
“What the Minister is saying here is that it is just not enough for you to train people to go for extension when you don’t have extension teaching materials, to that effect, ARCN has strengthened the adopted villages and schools, each of the centre, we have bought 50 chair, 50 tables, television, mobile generator , DVDs, because these are extension teaching materials so that our people will now be on the field for extension teaching them.