BY CHIBUZOR EMEJOR.
Federal Government on Thursday commissioned molecular diagnostic laboratory for diagnosis of prevalent diseases limiting crop yields especially those that are not visible to the naked eyes.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, who commissioned the laboratory at the National Agricultural Seeds Council [NASC] in Sheda, Abuja, thanked Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for funding the project through its BASIC programme on the development of the cassava seed system.
Earlier, Dr. Julian Smith, Senior staff of Fera Science Limited, had explained that the molecular diagnostic laboratory would assist tremendously in detecting viral diseases in crops that cannot be seen with naked eyes.
Smith maintained that Nigeria is not isolated in her geographical location, adding that the nation is vulnerable to diseases coming out of the country.
He pointed out that many of the diseases could infiltrate Nigeria through seeds, advising that precautionary measures should be taken to protect Nigerian farmers from crop diseases.
Addressing farmers and other critical stakeholders on the occasion, Ogbeh assured that the Federal Government would ensure the provision of improved quality seeds to farmers for enhanced food productivity.
He noted that measures have been put in place by government to scale up food production through the provision of improved seeds to farmers.
According to Ogbeh, “As a government, we have put measures in place to increase agricultural productivity especially in ensuring that those in the agricultural sector access funding through the recent Central Bank Lending Scheme which enables loans to be given at a single digit interest rate.
“The private sector is taking the driver’s seat in the agricultural space and we will do more to create the necessary enabling environment by putting in place regulations and structures that foster a strong business environment.
“The government will strengthen NASC to enforce the seed laws and continue to deter those defrauding farmers through the sale of low quality seeds; we will also empower our farmers by ensuring they have access to the best quality seeds.
“Today’s event aimed at enlightening farmers and students on the benefits of using improved seeds as against the farmers “saved seeds” which is currently the prevalent practice in the rural farming communities.
“This government is committed to safeguard the livelihood of our farmers.
“As part of the measures taken to curb the menace of the unscrupulous seed merchants, the Seed Council which has the statutory responsibility of enforcing the provisions of the Seed law has embarked on public enlightenment and sensitization programmes in collaboration with the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
“Also Seed market surveillance is mounted in all States of the Federation, to ensure that only quality seeds are sold to farmers.
“These has led to confiscation of poor quality seeds being sold in our markets and agro-shops which will be symbolically burnt today to send negative signals to the culprits and other stakeholders that it is no longer business as usual.”
Also speaking, Dr. Olusegun Ojo, Director General of NASC, said the Council was engaging more support of the states to step up its regulatory activities with the enhancement of its public enlightenment and sensitization programmes in seed market in major cities across the Country.
Ojo said the Council had already raided some markets in Kano, Jigawa and Kebbi to rid them of fake and adulterated seeds.