BusinessDay

Nigeria leads in Western, Central Africa seed hub, study finds

Nigeria-based Value Seeds came top in a new research on seed companies operating in Western and Central Africa, a new study by the Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation says.

According to the study, Value Seeds, like most of the other companies from the region, operates exclusively in its home country of Nigeria and stands out for its maize and rice ‘value kits’, all-in-one input packages tailored for smallholders.

The company also provides capacity building activities that specifically target women and next-generation farmers, the study adds.

“What both Value Seeds and Technisem represent is the importance of partnerships to improve access to seeds in the region,” said Ido Verhagen, executive director at Access to Seeds Index.

“In the case of Value Seeds, its partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) paid off, as its grant-based support enabled the company to improve its products and intensify its outreach to smallholder famers,” Verhagen said in a statement.

The study states that while there is a growing number of seed companies that are active in the region, both home grown and international, less than half of the 23 companies researched conduct plant breeding in Western and Central Africa.

This limits the release of new varieties adapted to the region, and explains the high number of varieties that are older than five years offered in company portfolios, the study notes.

Other Nigerian companies that also dominate the top half in the rankings are Maslaha Seeds, Premier Seed, and Da-Allgreen Seeds, showing the relative strength of the seed industry from Nigeria.

According to the study, open-pollinated varieties still dominate across the region, in contrast with Eastern Africa and South Asia.

The exception is maize, for which hybrid varieties are more commonly available. In addition, research shows that for almost half (48%) of the crops, the most recent variety is older than five years, with only a fifth (21%) having a variety less than three years, the study says.

The lack of newly developed varieties seriously impacts the resilience to a changing climate and emerging disease and pests, which reduces yields

Compared to a dozen of companies active in Nigeria and Senegal, only one company is active in each of Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.

“Our study shows the potential of home-grown seed companies. However, most operate only in their home markets, which causes geographic imbalances in seed sector development,” said Verhagen.

“This also means that capacity building activities offered by companies only reach farmers in a handful of countries. This limits the adoption of new technologies by farmers in overlooked countries,” he added.

“The seed industry has a vital role to play in helping farmers to adapt to climatic challenges while simultaneously raising production levels,” he adds.

 

Gbemi Faminu

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