Federal Government is seeking stiffer penalties for fake seed merchants in new bill,as a measure to address concerns of widespread of fake seedsto unsolicited farmers in the markets by seed racketeers,which is having negative impact on agri-business in the country.
The bill,which is almost getting ready for assent by the President is currently at the legal department of the National Assembly for final legal fine-tuning before the eventual submission to the President for his assent.
According to the bill,”Anybody caught selling fake or adulterated seeds at the first instance would be fined 1 Million naira or be sent to jail for a year.A repeated offender would pay 2 million or go to jail for 2 years.”
Audu Ogbe,Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development while speaking on the bill named-‘the National Agricultural Seed Control Bill’ on Tuesday in Abuja said the federal government is much more concerned and is determined to protect farmers interest,many of whom are not so scientifically inclined to distinguish proper seeds and fake ones.
Speaking further on the bill at the on going ‘Seed connect Africa ‘ workshop he said:”Many farmers have been complaining to us about low yield in the farm output .We are addressing that concern with a bill in the National Assembly called -and we are hoping to have it passed very quickly.
According to the Minister,”Once it is passed,there would be clear rules of engagement. If you sell fake seeds,we will go after you with the penalties spelt out in the bill. In the interim,we are going to create a programme called Agricultural Inputs Mechanisation services-AIMS,which will have distributors in local governments”
“The good seed companies that we know and certify,would use those distributors to address concerns of fake seeds in the country,whether it is rice,Maize,Sorghum,Millet,and Soybean.So,when you are selling your seed,you will know the distributor and tracking of fake merchants is determined headlong”
While emphasising on the tracking strategy for fake seed merchants of the government,the Minister said that it would ensure that the farmer doesn’t loose money,while also ensuring the professionals and young people who are investing in agriculture and supporting the diversification programme of the government recover their investments.
“We don’t want people to admit regrets having invested in the agricultural sect or.It is a bitter experience,and I have had it before. The distributors would be tamed,their addresses and link with seed companies is well spelt out so we know whom to hold at each point”Ogbe noted.
The Minister said,there should also be a form of traceability of seeds through certified seed companies participating in the country.
Clarifying federal Government’s stance on Genetically Modified Organisms,GMOs in the country,Ogbeh said,”We are not running away from GMOs,but we are a bit hesitant and exercising caution to forestall concerns of abuses.
Ogbeh clarified further stating that,”In order to deal with the problem of climate change and disease turbulence,GMO could come to the rescue.For the Americans,they may not have issues with that but for the Europeans,they are still applying caution and we are also applying caution down here too”
Olusegun Phillips Ojo,the director General of the National Agricultural Seed Council,NASC in his earlier remakrs said the objective of the workshop is to look at the seed industry in Nigeria and evaluate the way forward.
“We are looking at some of the pitfalls,challenges and the over all concerns in the seed industry and ho we are going to move forward.We are trying to develop a roadmap ”
HARRISON EDEH, ABUJA