COVID-19: Biotechnology Crucial To Boost Food Security- Minister

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Alhaji Sabo Nanono has said that in the face of the challenging Pandemic which has threatened all aspects of modern life especially the agricultural food chain across the globe, modern biotechnology was critical tool in improving food supply and good yield.

The Minister who disclosed this in his Keynote Address during a webinar meeting on Tuesday, said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration places high priority in Agriculture.

He said, President Buhari’s plan to diversify the economy through agriculture was stronger than ever through the use of technological intervention to expand agricultural productivity across the country.

Speaking on the topic “Covid19 Securing Nigeria’s food system through technology,” he said, the Buhari’s administration in the midst of the challenging covid 19 pandemic has provide improved seeds, agrochemicals and fertilizers, farm inputs, rural infrastructure, market access and interest free loans to farmers across the country.

He said, with the aid of biotechnology, agricultural produce would help resuscitate the food sector.

The Minister also spoke about his ministry”s collaboration with NABDA and other agencies toward the production of the recent Nigerian invented RNA Swift extraction kit for “Covid 19 diagnosis.

He said, because of this, Covid19 test is available locally”, reiterating that the FMARD would continue to support science and technology in solution providing in order to enhance food production and avoid post harvest losses.

Nanono said,”The Covid 19 may probably open opportunity for our country to look inward in what we produce and what we eat”.

Also speaking, the Acting Director General, Prof. Alex Akpa, who co-host the virtual conference on mitigating the impact of covid 19 in Nigeria food security system, said the webinar was meant for pulling out strategy to address the pandemic with biotechnology.

Prof. Alex said, biotechnology has a very powerful tool that had the potential of helping the country to address many situation including diseases outbreak, hunger, malnutrition, insects and pest infection amongst others.

He also noted that agricultural sector was one of the most affected by the pandemic because of the social distance rules.

He however, assured that with biotechnology in Agriculture, Nigeria would see progress in production, quality and high yields, reduction in drudgery, improve resistance to pest and diseases.

Akpa disclosed that the agency had also been able to unfold a program capable of producing about five million yam seedlings using the aeroponics technology for farmers across Nigeria in the covid-19 lockdown era.

Earlier, the National Coordinator, Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology Nigeria Chapter, Dr. Rose Gidado said, Covid19 was one of the world’s most significant pandemics leading to decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

She said, this had led to social disruptions and loss of million jobs, adding as a result, small holder farmers were at the receiving end.

The Director General, National Agricultural Seed Council(NASC), Dr. Philip Ojo said, the Council was working hard through the use of its various innovation to improve the seed sector amidst the pandemic.

“Seed is among the essential services and must continue to thrive in order to ensure food security,” the DG said.

He assured farmers that they would continue to have access to improved seeds.

Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo of Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa ( FARA), said, Nigeria has all it takes to maintain the leadership role through all the technologies by not allowing Nigerians to go to bed hungry. All must contribute to keep the Nations food secure in this challenging period of the pandemic.

The Director of Agriculture and Agro Industry, ,African Development bank, Dr Martins Fregene made his presentation alongside, Prof. M Ishyaku of institute for Agricultural Research Sumaru Zaria.

Ishyaku said, covid-19 would be around for a long time and ways must be created for it to work for Nigerians as the new normal.

The event was jointly organized by National Biotechnology Development Agency ( NABMA), Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria chapter and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).

The Conference featured many high levels of academics and agricultural biotechnologists and the president of National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), Mr Anibe Achimugu amongst others.

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