Nige­ria’s po­ten­tial at global cow­pea mar­ket …In­dia of­fers $1bn for Nige­ria’s beans

Sunday Trust - - AGRIC BUSINESS - By Sa­fina Buhari

Cow­pea, known as beans in Nige­ria, is an im­por­tant eco­nomic crop whose seeds are con­sumed as a ma­jor source of pro­tein, while the stems and leaves are used as an­i­mal feed dur­ing the dry sea­son serv­ing as a ma­jor source of in­come to its farm­ers.

Its ac­cept­abil­ity and con­sump­tion de­mand, adapt­abil­ity to dif­fer­ent soil types and drought re­sis­tance makes it an at­trac­tive and prof­itable crop to grow.

Nige­ria pro­duces nearly 47 mil­lion met­ric tonnes of beans from an es­ti­mated 4.5 mil­lion hectares an­nu­ally, mak­ing it the largest pulses pro­ducer in Africa and fourth largest pro­ducer of cow­pea in the world.

Cow­pea has been proven to im­prove soil fer­til­ity, man­age soil ero­sion and could be har­vested while the pods are young and green, ma­ture and green, or when com­pletely dry.

In­dia’s $1 bil­lion of­fer to Nige­ria: On Fe­bru­ary 7, Head of Chancery at the High Com­mis­sion of In­dia in La­gos, Mr Jagdeep Kapoor, an­nounced his gov­ern­ment’s plans to en­cour­age Nige­rian farm­ers to plant more pulses that would be ex­ported to In­dia, adding that his gov­ern­ment would send in In­dian farm­ers to sup­port their Nige­rian coun­ter­parts in farm­ing the crops.

Mr Kapoor listed such pulses to in­clude dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chick­peas, cow peas, pi­geon peas, lentils, Bam­bara beans, vetches and lupines.

Few weeks ago, re­port has it that In­dia had of­fered Nige­ria a $1 bil­lion (N367bn) deal for the sup­ply of pulses to meet up con­sump­tion de­mand of its peo­ple.

Devel­op­ments within the cow­pea Sec­tor: In re­cent past, IT89KD-288 (Sam­pea 11) and IT89KD-391 (Sam­pea 12) were de­vel­oped by sci­en­tists from the In­ter­na­tional In­sti­tute of Trop­i­cal Agri­cul­ture (IITA), Ibadan, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with IAR, Uni­ver­sity of Maiduguri, and Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Pro­grammes of Borno, Kaduna, Kano, and Katsina states.

Sam­pea 11 has an 80% yield ad­van­tage over the lo­cal va­ri­eties and a com­bined re­sis­tance to sep­to­ria leaf spot, scab and bac­te­rial blight, as well as ne­ma­todes, and tol­er­ance to Nige­ria’s strain of Striga.

On the other hand, Sam­pea 12 is also a dual-pur­pose cow­pea va­ri­ety with medium-to-large brown seeds with a rough seed coat, which are pre­ferred seed char­ac­ter­is­tics for com­mer­cial pro­duc­tion in north­east Nige­ria.

Again in March 2014, two ad­di­tional cow­pea va­ri­eties, Sam­pea 8 and Sam­pea 10 that could with­stand short rain­fall were de­vel­oped by the In­sti­tute for Agri­cul­tural Re­search (IAR) Ah­madu Bello Uni­ver­sity, Zaria.

The va­ri­eties were heat and drought re­sis­tant in ad­di­tion to early ma­tur­ing. Sam­pea 8 ma­tures in 55 days while Sam­pea 10 is striga re­sis­tant and ma­tures within 60 to 65 days.

The prob­lem with Nige­rian beans

In mid-2015, the Euro­pean Union (EU) sus­pended ex­port of se­lected Nige­rian agri­cul­tural pro­duce into their mem­ber coun­tries.

The ban was due to iden­ti­fied loop­holes in the coun­try’s reg­u­la­tory mech­a­nisms and fail­ure of gov­ern­ment to prop­erly equip the or­gan­i­sa­tion re­spon­si­ble for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of agro-com­modi­ties.

Dichlor­vos, a harm­ful pes­ti­cide was found to be around 0.03mg per kg to 4.6mg per kg as against the ac­cept­able max­i­mum residue limit of 0.01mg per kg.

In ad­di­tion to the afore­men­tioned, Africa is re­ported to lose $750 mil­lion an­nu­ally to strict my­co­toxin reg­u­la­tions at in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

Dr Vin­cent Isegbe, who is the Co­or­di­nat­ing Di­rec­tor, Nige­rian Agri­cul­tural Quar­an­tine Ser­vice (NAQS) had told Daily Trust that the re­jec­tion of Nige­rian beans was due to ac­tiv­i­ties of mid­dle­men who some­times ap­plied high doses of pes­ti­cide when pre­par­ing the pro­duce for ex­port.

NAQS, the agro-pro­duce cer­ti­fy­ing body, lacks the legal back­ing to pros­e­cute de­fault­ers who ex­port pro­duce with­out proper cer­ti­fi­ca­tion since es­tab­lish­ment of the ser­vice in 2007.

Sim­i­larly, the lim­ited staff ca­pac­ity of NAQS makes it ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to check­mate il­le­gal im­port and ex­port of agro-pro­duce with­out the nec­es­sary cer­ti­fi­ca­tion by the ser­vice.

How­ever, in April of 2014, the United States Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID) ear­marked $10m for ex­ten­sion of cow­pea project from 2014 to 2018 in Nige­ria and three other coun­tries.

The Pod Borer Re­sis­tant (PBR) cow­pea project is to pro­tect cow­pea against the maruca pod borer to en­sure pro­duc­tion of maru­care­sis­tant cow­pea for the whole African re­gion.

Prof Mo­hammed Faguci Ishaku, a plant breeder and ge­neti­cist who is also the Prin­ci­pal In­ves­ti­ga­tor for Bt. Cow­pea con­firmed that sci­en­tists at the in­sti­tute are work­ing on in­tro­gress­ing the Bt. gene de­vel­oped in Aus­tralia into the lo­cal Nige­rian cow­pea va­ri­eties to ad­dress the chal­lenge of maruca pod suck­ing in­sect.

The maruca pod-suck­ing in­sect is of­ten the rea­son why many farm­ers have aban­doned cow­pea farm­ing be­cause con­ven­tional breed­ing meth­ods have failed to pro­vide a so­lu­tion to it.

This is why sci­en­tists at the in­sti­tute turned to biotech­nol­ogy/ ge­netic mod­i­fi­ca­tion be­cause none of the over 15,000 cow­pea va­ri­eties crossed and an­a­lysed was found to be re­sis­tant to the maruca pod suck­ing in­sect.

Sig­nif­i­cant suc­cesses have so far been recorded on trial farms in the North where farm­ers needed to spray thrice or even less as against spray­ing up to eight times on other con­ven­tional cow­pea va­ri­eties.

Hin­drances to cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of agro-pro­duce: Dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo, the then Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, or­dered NAQS of­fi­cials out of Nige­rian sea­ports, which made it dif­fi­cult for the reg­u­la­tory body to block un­cer­ti­fied agri­cul­tural pro­duce brought in or taken out of the coun­try.

Also in June this year, an ex­ec­u­tive or­der or­dered the re­moval of NAQS of­fi­cials from se­cured ar­eas of Nige­rian air­ports thus al­low­ing free flow of agri­cul­tural pro­duce with­out con­trol.

Th­ese ac­tions have ag­gra­vated loop­holes fur­ther in the func­tion­ing of the agro­com­modi­ties cer­ti­fi­ca­tion body as nei­ther Na­tional Agency for Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Con­trol (NAFDAC), Fed­eral Air­port Au­thor­ity of Nige­ria (FAAN) or the Nige­ria Cus­toms Ser­vice could cer­tify nor guar­an­tee qual­ity of pro­duce meant for in­ter­na­tional mar­kets. Th­ese ac­tions are yet to be re­versed.

Fur­ther­more, the ban on im­por­ta­tion of dried beans from Nige­ria by the Euro­pean Union had been ex­tended by three years from the June 2016 dead­line.

Ex­perts’ ad­vice to farm­ers, ex­porters: In a phone in­ter­view with Daily Trust, Dr Maimuna Habib, Di­rec­tor of Lab­o­ra­tory Man­age­ment Ser­vices at NAQS ad­vised farm­ers to al­low grains and pulse beans to dry prop­erly be­fore stor­age.

She noted that the rec­om­mended mois­ture con­tent of the stored grains was 16% or less, adding that the use of jute bags would help to re­duce mois­ture con­tent of stored agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties since the bags ab­sorb mois­ture and al­low for proper air cir­cu­la­tion.

She stated that it was the Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus par­a­siticum fungi that pro­duces afla­tox­ins. Afla­toxin is one of the my­co­tox­ins pro­duced by con­tam­i­nated pulses, grains and other food ma­te­ri­als.

Sim­i­larly, an Agri­cul­tural Econ­o­mist for IITA, Ab­doulaye Tahi­rou (PhD), ad­vised farm­ers to use Pur­due Im­proved Cow­pea Stor­age (PICS) bag in or­der to pre­vent pes­ti­cide/chem­i­cal residue build-up in the pro­duce, thus en­sur­ing food safety and sav­ing farm­ers from in­ci­dences of crop ban at global mar­kets.

The PICS bag is a three lay­ered plas­tic bag rec­om­mended for farm­ers to use for stor­ing their pro­duce with­out us­ing chem­i­cals.

Mean­while, the Na­tional Pres­i­dent of All Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (AFAN), Arc. Kabiru Ibrahim, has noted that gov­ern­ment needs to cre­ate an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment and de­velop a blue print for cow­pea pro­duc­tion in the coun­try.

In ad­di­tion, he said farm­ers need to prac­tice good agri­cul­tural prac­tices to be able to meet up in­ter­na­tional stan­dard and spec­i­fi­ca­tions of cow­pea.

In re­sponse to In­dia’s de­mand for Nige­rian pulses, he ad­vised that free trade should ex­ist where farm­ers would be able to de­ter­mine the prices they are will­ing to sell their pro­duce.

There­fore, all hands need to be on deck to be able to tap into the po­ten­tials that abound in the cow­pea sec­tor and its po­ten­tial to earn the coun­try for­eign ex­change, and en­sure food and eco­nomic se­cu­rity to par­tic­i­pants of its value chain.

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