As Nigerians groan under high cost of food stuffs in the market, the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Nigeria, OFAB has promised to crash the prices of stable food, especially beans by 2022 farming season.
The Coordinator, OFAB, and Nigeria, Dr. Rose Gidado, made the promise at the inauguration of OFAB Day celebration with the theme: ‘‘Celebrating Strides in bridging the knowledge gap in agricultural biotechnology towards agricultural transformation in Africa’’.
She said about 32 farmers have so far been given the seedlings of the newly commercialized BT Cowpea across the 36 states of the country in July, including the FCT for pilot demonstration with the hope of reaching out to more farmers in the coming months.
Dr. Gidado also said that OFAB, NABDA and Seed Council of Nigeria are already working in synergy to see how they could license more seed companies so that the production will be more for farmers to access for next farming season.
The OFAB Coordinator, who blamed the high cost of beans on scarcity of seedlings and low harvest, assured that farmers would experience a bumper harvest for cowpea next year given the high yielding capacity of the improved variety now available for farmers.
‘‘I know there is hunger in the land, we are just starting commercialization of our genetically modified beans. This is just the beginning because this is the first year, it will be too early for me to judge and scarcity as you know brings about hike in prices.
‘‘By next year we are going to have more seeds in the market and if there is availability of course prices will go down. But for this year, the seeds were sold for 1000 per kg because of the resources that we put in, but we need more resources to do more.
‘‘However, the farmers are assured of high yield next year, the feelers we are getting is so good. FCT farmers are giving testimonies that the seeds are germinating like wide fire.’’
The OFAB boss, called for more funding into the seed production urged the private sector to partner with the NABDA and OFAB to ensure mass production of the improved seedlings.
‘‘Initially, we were in a hurry to commercialize the BT Cotton and Cowpea but there were no enough resources to produce. By next year, we expect more production of seeds because more companies are going to be licensed.
‘‘About 32 farmers have been given the seedlings across the country to produce more seeds including the FCT for demonstration in July. Two years ago, when the seeds were given, the farmers hid the seeds because they were so impressed with the yields. That is why there was shortage. I think government needs to invest more into seed production and private sector partnership is needed more, if they can key into this, that will help to make the seeds more accessible to farmers.’’
On the achievements, she said OFAB had succeeded in correcting the misconception about biotechnology and ensured the passage of Biosafety Bill into law in 2012, which the agency singlehandedly facilitated with support of NABDA and many agric research institutes and other support partners.
She also said OFAB had united the agric research institutes and NABDA and working as a team, they have been a success story through a pragmatic partnership between stakeholders.
She noted that their target with biotechnology is to give poor resource farmers access to improved seedlings.
‘‘For us to commercialize we needed to make it accessible to farmers, we needed to have a safety verve in place and considering that we could not go far without enabling law. But now we have NBMA, people are assured the safety of biotechnology. With this safety verve in place, research institutions are being checkmated and we have to ensure whatever we do is only beneficial to human life and environment.
Today we have two crops that have been commercialized in Nigeria, BT Cotton and Cowpea.
In his remarks, the Head of Planning, Research and Statistics, Agricultural Science Council of Nigeria, ARCN, Dr. Aliyu Madugu said OFAB had succeeded in sensitizing Nigerian to understand what biotechnology is and by using biotechnology, it has brought in improved varieties that have brought higher yield and better resistant to diseases and pastes.
With the ongoing synergy between ARCN and NABDA, he said outcome will surely lead to crash in the price of food stuff in the coming years, though, it may not come immediately.
‘‘The BT Cowpea is a new product in the market. Accessing the seeds is not possible for some farmers because it got exhausted; only three companies were awarded the right to make production of such seeds. COVID 19 has also denied some farmers some farming inputs.
‘‘I am happy OFAB, NABDA and Seed Council are currently trying to see how they could bring in other seed companies so that the production will be more and farmers will have access. With biotechnology, every other thing will be addressed.’’
Highlight of the event was the launch of a media grant for science journalist.
The inaugural OFAB day is being celebrated in 9 African countries that have adopted biotechnology as a new way of mitigating food scarcity and wealth creation.