Biotechnology: Enhancing Nigeria’s Global Competitiveness With Insect-Resistant Maize

Biotechnology: Enhancing Nigeria’s Global Competitiveness With Insect-Resistant Maize

Nigeria has practically announced its stature within the comity of nations in research and development in the agriculture landscape with a great innovation of producing the transgenic insect-resistant and drought- tolerant maize.

On 11th January 2024, the National Committee on Naming, Registration, and Release of Crop Varieties, Livestock Breeds/Fisheries, approved the commercial release and open cultivation of the transgenic insect-resistant and drought-tolerant maize varieties known as TELA Maize, along with other high-yielding crop varieties at its 33rd meeting at National Centre for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB) in Ibadan.

This innovation has bolstered the enthusiasm and increasing hope that the transgenic insect-resistant and drought- tolerant maize recently approved for mass production and commercialization in the country will benefit the country and transform it into the hub of global maize production and perhaps the maize value chain.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Uche Nnaji shared this optimism in his address during a briefing in Abuja recently. He said “it is a significant milestone in the country’s biotechnology sector and an improvement in Nigeria’s journey towards agricultural prosperity and sustainable development.

The Minister, who hailed the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) for this enormous achievement, said commercial release of these crop varieties marks a remarkable step to enhance agricultural productivity and ensure food sufficiency for the country.

He said “it exemplifies our commitment to harnessing the power of biotechnology to address pressing agricultural challenges, enhance crop resilience, and improve the livelihoods of our farmers and citizens. It also strengthens our position in the global agricultural landscape, fostering economic stability and opening new avenues for trade and export.”

It is noteworthy that this groundbreaking achievement was made possible by the ceaseless efforts and support of NABDA under the leadership of Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha and his management team and this raises  hope of further advancement in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.

“The benefits of this release are far-reaching, promising increased crop yields, enhanced resilience to pests and diseases, reduced environmental impact, and improved nutritional content,” Nnaji added.

By this development, stakeholders in the agriculture value chain including farmers, extension workers, and private sector partners now have an opportunity to produce these new crop varieties towards a more prosperous, sustainable, and food-secure future for Nigeria.

It is also apt, like the Minister noted, that NABDA in collaboration with various stakeholders and foreign collaborators, is actively pursuing the release of several other crops, each poised to revolutionize Nigeria’s agricultural productivity and fortify the nation’s food security.

The Director General of NABDA Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha in his address promised that “NABDA will not renege on its commitment to utilising biotechnology to tackle the diverse socio -economic challenges that impede sustainable national development, thereby actively contributing to the economic growth of Nigeria.”

Irrespective of the optimism, systems and structures must be put in place to achieve this purpose. Also the aim of mass production of the species of maize is only possible in an atmosphere of security.  Farmlands in Nigeria have come under attacks by bandits and herdsmen, with massive killing and displacement of farmers and the disruption of the agriculture value chain and food shortages.

The warning from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Mrs,  Esuabana Nko-Asanye security threat must be heeded if Nigeria is to achieve this goal.

She had warned that farmers in the country will not be able to enjoy this new research output that the Ministry has been able to discover without addressing the issue of insecurity in the country which is a great hindrance to farming and agricultural sector.

According to an expert in international security and food production, who does not want his name on print, said “Nigeria can leverage this unique opportunity to be the global hub of the production of these species and help nurture a new vista in food security which will enhance Nigerian clout in international relations. However, the real foreign partners and investors in this sector will not come here with the level of insecurity in the country.”

Nigeria can also leverage its diverse diplomatic relations to promote this project. Recently, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken visited Nigeria as part of a four-nation tour of four Africa where he buttressed the need to strengthen collaboration to boost investment.

It is disturbing that Nigeria and other African countries have not taken advantage of the US-funded African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) initiated by the US to open up the US market for products from Africa.  This innovation in Nigeria can change all that. Agriculture can attract such investment if the Nigerian side can create structures such as access to credit to farmers, organized pricing system and standard measures for the Nigerian agro-products.  This will spur more production and help to reduce unemployment among the youths, many of whom have taken to crime and other social vices.

China is another country Nigeria has very fruitful relations with and the Chinese during the 6th edition of the China International Import Expo in (CIIE) held last November in Shanghai, have opened its huge market of 1.4 billion to the world market.  Nothing stops Nigeria from producing agro-products that meet international standards, especially the Goods on Protocol list of China.

There are challenges facing Nigeria in this sector but with proper planning and adequate incentives, the opportunities are enormous.


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