Critical stakeholders in Nigeria’s modern agricultural biotechnology sector have urged farmers across the country to adopt the already commercialised Bt. cotton which can revive Nigeria’s comatose textile industry.
They stated that many years of rigorous research have led to the development of genetically modified hybrid cotton that can give value to farmers in all the cotton growing zones in Nigeria.
This disclosure was made during the just concluded workshop for cotton farmers in Abuja, organised by the National Agricultural Biotechnology Development Agency, the Open Forum for Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB), Nigeria Chapter in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN).
Speaking during the workshop, one of the stakeholders and business manager of Mahyco Nigeria Agricultural Seed Company Ravi Kumar disclosed that there is already a good variety of the seed called ‘Bollgard 2 cotton hybrid’ in the market, for the advantage of farmers.
He also informed participants that the variety ensures farmers have fewer labour requirements in spraying, as it is insect-resistant and has the capacity for high yields.
According to him, about 3,000 500 grammes of seeds have been distributed to cotton farmers across 12 states, vis Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Niger, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba and Cross River.
In his remarks, the director-general of NABDA, Prof. Abdullahi Mustapha said that while the Nigerian government remains committed to reviving the textile industry through a reinvigorated cotton farming system, it is also monitoring to ensure that seed companies do not compromise the quality required for the desired high yields.
Mustapha, who called on farmers to adopt the Bt cotton, assured them that the variety already released into the market is safe for the environment.
“These varieties of Bt cotton are suitable for cultivation in all of Nigeria’s cotton growing zones. In addition to the pest-resistant traits, they offer early maturity, fibre length of 30.0 to 30.5 millimetres and fibre strength of 26.5 to 27.0g/tex (tenacity) and micronaire (strength) of 3.9 to 4.1. Bt cotton varieties will save farmers the trouble of contending with the local conventional variety, which is no longer accepted at the international markets.
“Recent initiatives to improve the contribution of the agricultural sector to economic growth in Nigeria have emphasised the importance of cotton production in stimulating the economy. Bt cotton, therefore, raises hope for textile industry revival as commercialisation has started a revolution that will help Nigeria in her cotton productivity deficit.
“The stage has been set for self-sufficiency in the production of cotton as industrial raw material with the subsequent transformation of the textile industry. The productivity data of the improved varieties of cotton obtained from farmers’ fields has raised the hope that the moribund textile industry in Nigeria would soon come alive. Nigerian farmers who would be involved in Bt cotton business would be empowered to enjoy increased productivity.
“The value chain of cotton from the farmers to processors, cottage industry workers, to the spinning and textile industry will also create job openings that government is clamouring for. Jobs will be created, wealth generated, ginneries reactivated and Nigeria will be able to export cotton to other countries and become a [big player in the] global trade.
Earlier, the director-general, National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA), Dr. Rufus Ebegba said that government agencies involved in biotechnology and biosafety issues pay real attention to cotton seeds, as it is a major cash crop in the country.
A statement by the OFAB Nigeria information officer, Sarah Iliya Mela, said Ebegba also disclosed that Bt cotton is a product of modern biotechnology and the “government of Nigeria, through the NBMA has put in place [a] world-class system to protect the interest of Nigerians and the environment in the application of modern biotechnology and use of GMOs”.
The national president of Cotton Farmers Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), Achimugu Anibe in his opening remarks, said “farmers have witnessed productivity and high yield since the advent of Bt cotton”.