Nigeria’s quest for food sufficiency  opens N525bn opportunity in seeds industry

by | March 21, 2017 1:20 am

Nigeria’s failure to invest in seeds has created a N525.04 billion gap which presents an business opportunity in the industry, as farmers are left with low quality inputs that portend danger to crop production and the country’s food-sufficiency target.

“Most of the seeds in the market today are imported and this is because we do not produce enough seeds. The research institutes that are mandated to produce improved varieties of seeds are not doing anything,” Abiodun Olorundenro, chief executive officer, Green Vine Farms, told BusinessDay.

“There are lots of adulterated seeds in the country today because demand is much higher than supply. The level of investments in the industry is low. To bridge the gap, a lot of merchants are importing these seeds for farmers,” Olorundenro said.

Nigeria’s seed industry potential stands at N777.38 billion, while what is locally available is estimated at N252.35 billion, thereby leaving a gap of N525.04 billion. Experts, however, suggest that this figure may have risen by five to 15 percent since 2015.

The total national seed requirements for eight major crops, including maize and rice, in Africa’s most populous country stood at 388,690.64 metric tons (MT) in 2015, while the quantity available was 126,173 MT, leaving a yawning gap of 262,518 MT.

Since 2012, the number of private seed companies has grown from 11 to over 100, which, experts say, is an attestation of the enormously untapped potential and vast business opportunities yet unexplored. Some of them are Premier Seeds Nigeria Limited, Maslaha Seeds Nigeria Limited, West African Cotton Company Limited (WACOT), Notore Seeds Limited, Candel Seeds Limited, and Alheri Seeds Nigeria Limited.

However, most of the seeds found in the Nigerian market are adulterated, as the federal and state governments show no interest in investing into the seed industry. Apart from poor funding of research institutions that are expected to evolve quality seeds, there is also no public-private sector initiative on this.

“A lot of farmers are abandoning their farms because they do not have quality seeds to plant,” Anibe Achimugu, president, National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN) told BusinessDay in a telephone interview.

An expert who does not want his name in print, told BusinessDay that the government needs to prevent the supply-availability gap from widening further to prevent creating a fertile ground for the proliferation of unregistered and incompetent operators who flood the market with fake or poor quality seeds.

“The speedy passage of the pending bill for a Seed Act will further promote the seed industry. The bottlenecks in budgetary allocation, approval, release and disbursement should be removed, with the realisation that seed production depends on seasonality, not on government’s traditional budgetary calendar,” the expert said.

He explained that legal backing from the National Assembly would empower the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) to carry out its statutory mandate of regulation and supervision of seeds more effectively and seamlessly.

He added that Nigeria should come out clean on biotechnology and genetically modified (GMs) foods, which would save the country in this period of seed crisis.

Afioluwa Mogaji, chief executive officer, X-ray Farms Limited, said no local seed company produces hybrid seeds for vegetables in the country.

According to Mogaji, this is a huge opportunity for local firms to invest in vegetable hybrid seeds, stating that the value of the tomato seeds segment alone is value at N2billion.

Framers seek hybrid seeds owing to their productivity advantage, but most of them are imported. Their prices have gone up by over 40 percent in the last 12 months due to the dollar crunch in the economy.

Nigeria produces nearly 70 per cent of seeds used in West Africa but still faces a huge seed gap.

Muhammed Augie, chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Kebbi State chapter, told BusinessDay recently that rice and wheat farmers in the state do not have quality seeds to use on their farmlands, as most of the seeds in the market are of low quality.

“Even the seeds given to farmers two years ago under the growth enhancement scheme are of low quality,” Augie said.