- As of 2019, Nigeria was accounting for 60 per cent of the total seeds marketed in West Africa.
- Nigeria has been exporting seeds in large volumes to neighbouring countries.
- Seed companies are well-positioned to develop and provide access to quality seeds in Africa.
Harmonization of regulations has made the seed industry in West African countries thrive. Or is it?
Well, in 2019, the actors of the sector acknowledged this during a regional gathering that was held in Abuja, Nigeria.
The seed industry in Africa
Boosting the agriculture sector’s productivity, profitability and sustainability are essential for fighting hunger and poverty, tackling malnutrition, and ensuring food security.
It is well known that seeds are the most important input in crop production; they are the basic unit of plant propagation, and as such, are a crucial component of agriculture.
Quality seeds are a prerequisite to successful agriculture, and constitute a major pathway for the success of regional food security goals, with the potential to increase overall productivity by nearly 40%. Seed companies are well-positioned to develop and provide access to quality seeds in Africa.
Governments, development, and research actors have been working together in the past decade to implement a policy that would allow for the free flow of seeds across West Africa.
The vision for the seed sector in Nigeria is to be competitive, resilient, profitable, innovative and adaptive, sustainable, inclusive, resistant and transparent.
Having access to a regional seed market with fewer barriers to seed trade contributes to the growth of seed enterprises.
Small-scale seed enterprises which have been emerging over the past decade are now providing quality seeds to farmers across Nigeria and other countries of West Africa.
As of 2019, Nigeria was accounting for 60 per cent of the total seeds marketed in West Africa. Nigeria currently supplies over 50 per cent of the quality seeds that are used in West Africa.
The Federal Government Director-General, National Agricultural Seeds Council, Philip Ojo on Friday, November 26, 2021, said Nigeria has been exporting seeds in large volumes to neighbouring countries.
Ojo who was speaking in Abuja during a road walk to announce the 2021 Seed-Connect Africa Conference and Exhibition, organised by the council and the agriculture ministry said other countries in West Africa have started going to Nigeria to learn what makes them big in seed production.
So far, Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and the Gambia have already sent invitations to Nigeria, and Ghana will be going to the country with its delegation to study what is being done as far as seed production is concerned.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammad Mahmoud says farmers must desist from buying unapproved seeds.
In 2020, the seeds council, with the support of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, introduced the NASC SeedCodex, an electronic seed authentication tag to provide farmers with quality assurance through tracking, traceability and provision of quality seeds.
The country also introduced the National Seed Road Map (NSRM), which is a strategic policy document that guides stakeholders in the seed sector of Nigeria to work towards an increase in farmers’ access to and use of quality seed of improved varieties.
Traditionally seed inspection has been the mandate of the government seed agency.
As the number of seed companies and the volume of certified seed produced have grown in the last decade, several African countries are introducing private seed inspectors to complement the government services.
South Africa leads the pack with an all-private inspection service operated by the South Africa National Seed Organization (SANSOR).
As of 2019, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe all had well-established private seed inspection systems. Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda have all made substantive steps towards introducing private seed inspection to augment often overstretched public inspection services.
Counterfeit seed is a growing problem in most African countries, threatening the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who unknowingly purchase regular grain labelled as certified seed.
Seed companies in the DRC, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe have each reported more than 20 cases of fake seed per year.
Since most countries do not have a formal system of tracking cases of counterfeit seeds, the reported figures are likely to be a significant underestimation of the problem.
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In response to this growing problem, several countries have implemented innovative solutions through public-private partnerships. For example, in Kenya and Nigeria, the seed regulatory agencies, in collaboration with the private sector, have launched electronically coded security labels that farmers can use to authenticate certified seed.
According to Dr. Abdulai Jalloh, CORAF’s Director of Research and Innovation, it is only when the private sector is involved that one will be able to produce the volume of seeds needed to meet the high demand.
The Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN) is the country’s seed trade association, with 72 seed companies registered as members in 2019.
The NSRM as a strategic document identifies challenges that are placed within the six functions of seed sector transformation, which include service provision, seed production, market development, revenue generation and reinvestment, coordination and governance, and regulation and management.
In 2019, the Netherlands Government unveiled plans to intensify its bilateral relations with Nigeria in the Agricultural sector.
As a result, a number of strategic outputs around cooperation between both countries in co-developing the Nigerian seed sector were formulated.
The NSRM provided a positive indication for Dutch trade and investment interest in the Nigerian seed system, such as harmonized intervention by public, and private actors both within and outside Nigeria, giving Netherlands the impetus to promote the Nigeria seed industry as the next main destination for trade and investment on the African continent.
West Africa Regional Seed and Seedling Committee (WARSSC)
For effective implementation of the seed regulation, actors have put in place a committee known as the West Africa Regional Seed and Seedling Committee (WARSSC).
The body meets annually to review progress in view of tacking relevant corrective measures or actions. It is usually an opportunity for all the actors from governments, private sector, donors, and research institutions to examine the state of progress.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is among the inter-governmental bodies with interest in the free flow of seeds.
As a regional economic tool working for regional integration, ECOWAS’s goal is to see its policy of free movement of people and services across West Africa become a reality.
According to Sekou Sangare, ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment, and Water Resources, a seed variety if discovered in any ecological zone and released in one member state can be multiplied and sold in another one.