Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Global Insight: Regulatory reforms aim to grow agricultur­e sector in Nigeria

- by Dr Tinashe Kapuya

Nigeria remains the largest economy in Africa, with an estimated value of US$443 billion (about R6,32 trillion) in 2020, around 22% of which is the share of the primary agricultur­al economy. This makes Nigeria’s agricultur­e sector the largest in Africa, too.

Although the sector is not very advanced from a technology and infrastruc­ture point of view, the country has been making a number of regulatory reforms that are beginning to open up space for more growth and developmen­t, particular­ly in the input markets.

According to the World Bank, “Nigeria has several features that are currently viewed as good practices in its laws and regulation­s governing the seed sector, as well as in the implementa­tion of those laws and regulation­s in practice.”

For example, Nigeria now has a catalogue that lists registered seed varieties, which is updated at least once every growing season. Private seed companies or third parties are allowed to produce early-generation seed (EGS) from public varieties. Moreover, the law prescribes the procedural requiremen­ts to access plant genetic materials.

Public research institutes license public varieties to companies for domestic production and sale. For foreign varieties not registered under a regional release system, a subcommitt­ee is empowered to determine the required “limited multilocat­ional verificati­on trial” according to its rules and procedures.

The country recently enacted the National Agricultur­al Seeds Council Act of 2019, which has ushered in an improved legal and regulatory framework that has fundamenta­lly modernised the seed input market.

For example, plant breeders’ rights are recognised in the Act. And while there are no specific measures to protect the rights, the Act empowers the National

Agricultur­al Seeds Council (NASC) to approve and implement programmes and measures to protect them.

The Act also clarifies the functions of seed inspectors and provides them with the power that they need to take samples of any seed from any person or entity marketing or purchasing seed; carry out seed testing; search premises handling seed; and carry out field inspection to monitor seed production and certificat­ion.

CAPACITY REMAINS INSUFFICIE­NT

However, the NASC still requires a legal and regulatory framework provided by the law in order to operationa­lise and implement the Act.

Currently, the human, technical and operationa­l capacity of the NASC is not sufficient to meet the national demand for quality seed and to provide quality control and assurance services to the seed companies, seed producers, and community-based seed systems at national scale for most commoditie­s.

The modern approach employed in many countries is for the seed regulator to work with third parties such as private seed inspectors and private laboratori­es that have the necessary capacity for quality assurance.

Beyond the need for improvemen­t in the NASC’s institutio­nal capacity, there are a number of tasks that it needs to provide to sufficient­ly address gaps in Nigeria’s seed sector. These tasks include: • To develop modalities for the private sector to access germ plasm from public sources for carrying out research, production, processing and marketing of EGS and certified seed.

• To partner with private sector seed companies to jointly develop and implement business models for publicpriv­ate partnershi­ps in the production of EGS to alleviate the persistent problem of inadequate supplies.

• To develop and implement regulation­s to recognise and protect plant breeders’ intellectu­al property to be consistent with the Plant Variety Protection Bill and in line with the Internatio­nal Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants’ systems.

• To liaise with the Federal Ministry of Agricultur­e and Rural Developmen­t in co-developing standard operating procedures for seed inspectors to carry out their duties and obligation­s as specified in the National Agricultur­al Seeds Council Act.

• To develop and implement protocols for decentrali­sing seed quality assurance through third parties such as private seed inspectors and laboratori­es.

The World Bank noted that Nigeria had already made remarkable progress in improving the legal and regulatory environmen­t for seed developmen­t and quality control. The additional regulatory reforms mentioned above will go a long way towards providing further impetus in growing the continent’s largest agricultur­e sector.

This article is based on the work being undertaken by the Alliance for a Green Revolution for Africa together with a team from Nigeria through the World Bank’s Enabling Business for Agricultur­e programme.

Dr Tinashe Kapuya is head of the value chain analytics division at the Bureau for Food and Agricultur­al Policy. Email him at tinashe@bfap.co.za.

NIGERIA NOW HAS A CATALOGUE THAT LISTS REGISTERED SEED VARIETIES; IT IS UPDATED EVERY GROWING SEASON

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