Okwe Obi and Nwakuadu Charity, Abuja
The Federal Government has flayed farmers over poor agricultural produce, insisting that most farmers do not know how to plant seeds.
The Federal Government, however, said there was no cause for alarm as it would recruit experts across the 36 states to embark on sensitization drive to educate farmers across the country on how to plant seeds for bumper harvest.
The government, through the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, stated this in Abuja, Tuesday, at the 2018 Seed Connect Africa summit, organized by the National Agricultural Seeds Council, (NASC), with the theme:’The Nigerian seeds industry: Evaluating the seed sector and developing a sustainable framework to bolster the growth of the seed industry.’
Ogbeh, who launched NASC’s call centre/farmer’s help line (07000073337, 070000SEEDS) emphasized government’s position to decisively deal with those selling low quality seeds.
According to him, ” As we improve on seeds, we have to teach farmers how to plant the seeds. If you go to a farm you see some farmers planting maize one metre apart and in between he is contending with weeds after spending money.
“If you go to Spain or China, you will find out that planting of seeds is 6inches apart on a roll. If the Nigerian farmers can boast of 6,000 tons of maize per hectare, the farmers can have over 80,000 stands of maize with good fertilizer and soil, and there is no way the farmer can lack food.
He pledged the government’s commitment to make loans available and at an affordable interest rate.
“Most people who are running seeds business are in debts. Low interest rates are absolutely necessary for agriculture to thrive.
“How can it be that elsewhere, farmers borrow money at 2% and here the minimum you can get, except you are part of what of the new things we are doing, the minimum is 18 per cent,” Ogbeh added.
On his part, the Director General, National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), Phillips Ojo, said a bill is before the National Assembly, seeking a 3-year jail term for those who indulge in selling fake seeds to farmers, to serve as a deterrent to others.
“Anybody that is caught selling fake quality seeds, if he is a first time offender, will pay a fine of N1million or risk one year jail term. While second time offender will pay N2million and spend 2 years in jail.
“The bill is being put together and it is with the legal unit of the National Assembly and after that it would transmitted to the president for assent,” he added.