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Experts To Develop Commercial Models For Cassava

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Experts working on the project to develop commercial models for cassava seed system in Nigeria will meet at International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, tomorrow to map out strategies for development.
A statement by the IITA Communication Specialist, Mrs Adaobi Umeokoro, said that the experts would meet to strategise on how the potential of emerging cassava technologies could harnessed to create wealth for all.
The statement said that the experts were planning to develop a sustainable mechanism through which smallholder farmers could get timely and affordable access to high-quality planting materials such as improved cassava varieties.
It said that they would consider how to make cassava, an important staple crop for millions of families in sub-Saharan Africa, more profitable for those whose livelihoods and sustenance depended on it.
“ Building a Sustainable, Integrated Seed System for Cassava in Nigeria (BASICS) project will hold its first annual review and planning meeting.
“It promises to strategise on the best available options for making planting materials of superior variety and quality readily available and accessible to Nigerian farmers at the appropriate time, place, and price,” it said.
The statement quoted the Project Director, Dr Hemant Nitturkar, as saying that although Nigeria was the largest cassava producer in the world, its average yield of about 14 tonnes/ha was less than half of what could be produced in a realistic way.
“Given the potential of this crop and the vast number of Nigerians depending on it, there is an urgent need for improvement at all levels of the cassava value chain.
“Increased adoption of improved varieties and usage of quality materials have the potential to improve the productivity of cassava, thus positively impacting on food security and livelihoods in Nigeria.
“It can earn valuable foreign exchange for the country through increased exports and import substitution; BASICS is catalysing the build-up of a sustainable seed value chain in Nigeria,” he reportedly said.
The statement said that Nitturkar stressed that BASICS would sensitise farmers to the need to use high-quality seeds of improved varieties to achieve higher net profits from cassava cultivation.
“BASICS is piloting two business models for seed multiplication and distribution.  The first is a decentralised Village Seed Entrepreneur (VSE) model, where over 130 VSEs will be developed in Benue, Abia, Imo, Akwa-Ibom, and Cross River states.
“The second is the Processor Led Model (PLM), where cassava processors will multiply good quality improved cassava varieties for supply to outgrowers to plant under a buy-back arrangement for the roots produced.
“The project has developed an online platform called Cassava Seed Tracker (CST) to facilitate easy registration of seed producers and real time monitoring of field inspections and certification by National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC).
“CST is also designed to link seed producers with needy farmers and many more features will be added to this platform over time.’’
The statement said that Nitturkar emphasised that the project would also address one of the key bottlenecks of cassava seed system, which was slow and low seed multiplication ratio.
“It is piloting the use of an innovative rapid seed multiplication technology called Semi Autotrophic Hydroponics (SAH), which has been successfully used in commercial potato seed multiplication in Argentina.
“SAH is expected to significantly help the cassava seed system by enhancing the capacity of pre-BASICS and BASICs seed producers to make available adequate quantities of certified planting materials of improved varieties for further multiplication by certified seed producers.
“The technologies and models being piloted in this initiative are tailored towards creating a win-win scenario for farmers, processors and seed entrepreneurs in Nigeria.
“The processors benefit from an assured supply of better quality cassava roots for processing.
“Youths and women, among other seed entrepreneurs, benefit from an expanding cassava seed market as an economic opportunity and the nation benefits from the resulting enhanced productivity across the cassava value chain,” Nitturkar said in the statement.
The project director said in the statement that BASICS, a four-year project (2016-2019), was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
“The project partners include the NASC, National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Context Global Development, Food and Environment Research Agency of the UK (FERA), among others,” Nitturkar was quoted as saying.

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Experts Okay FG’s Plan To Stop Food Importation …Say It’ll Boost Foreign Reserve

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Financial experts yesterday backed the Federal Government’s move to stop foreign exchange on food importation, saying it would boost the nation’s foreign reserve and local production of food items.
They told newsmen in Lagos that the policy, if properly implemented, would curb importation as well as protect value of the naira.
A professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Prof. Sheriffdeen Tella, said that one of the ways to protect the value of the naira was to curb importation.
“This is a difficult time for the external sector of our economy and government must act to protect serious downward slide in the value of the naira.
“Oil price is going down again and the foreign reserve has started declining due to Central Bank of NIgeria (CBN) intervention in the forex market.
“One of the ways to protect the value of the naira is to curb importation. So the President was right in taking that decision,’’ Tella said.
He said that the policy would encourage and assure farmers that “if they increase their outputs, they can always find customers, which are good for the economy.
“Nigeria should have no business importing food in the 21st century if we had modernised agriculture in the last one or two decades, but we still see farmers carry cutlass and hoes to farm to produce food.
“Farmers in all areas, crops, animal husbandry, livestock, and even agro-allied industries should take advantage of this policy to unleash their potential and modernise their operations,’’ Tella said.
He, however, said that consumers would suffer in the immediate term because prices of food items would increase.
“But in the medium to long term, if the tempo of production activities to be generated is sustained, everyone will be better off.
“At least, we can be forced to consume what we produce,’’ Tella added
A chartered stockbroker and Chief Executive Officer, Sofunix Investment and Communications, Mr Sola Oni, said that philosophy of stopping food importation was to revolutionise agriculture, Nigeria’s hitherto economic life wire.
Oni, however, said that it requires a strong political will to implement such a policy.
He said that adequate infrastructure and incentives must be provided to encourage local production of such food items.
“The economics of the policy is to create employment opportunities locally and earn foreign exchange through exportation of such food items in the final analysis.
“The big elephant in the house is the usual issue of implementation. Nigeria has never lacked good policies but the strength of character to ensure implementation.
“It is hoped that policy will not be circumvented by rent seeking Nigerians who always have their way through top-level political network,’’ he said.
Oni said that he was in support as long as it would not cause extreme hardship.
He noted that the benefits of the policy outweigh challenges in the medium and long run if properly handled.
“Why must we import what we can produce, thereby depleting our external reserves,’’ he asked.
According to him, government should be sure that Nigeria has achieved food security.
“The policy can be done in phases to ease possible tension. It could be done in three to five years before full implementation,’’ Oni said.
President Buhari had, last Tuesday, directed the CBN to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country.
According to him, the directive is to achieve steady improvement in agricultural production, and attainment of full food security.

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EKEDC Supplies Prepaid Meters To 246,587 Customers

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The Eko Electricity Distribution Company (EKEDC), yesterday says it has supplied 246,587 customers with prepaid meters out of the 501,532 customers within its network as at August 2019.
The General Manager, Corporate Communications, Mr Godwin Idemudia, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the company had engaged the service of seven Meter Asset Providers (MAP) operators which include Mojec, Armese, Bendoriks, Gospell, IRL,Turbo and CIG.
He said three out of the seven MAPs appointed for the company by the regulators had commenced operations.
According to him, “They (MAPs) have done their pre-installation survey which have been validated. MAPs are to supply meters.’’
He also said that in spite of the company’s efforts in ensuring that customers within its network were supplied with meters in no distant time, EKEDC’s debt profile remained on the high side.
Idemudia said the company’s debt profile as at the third quarter of 2019 stood at N65 billion as a result of some customers not paying for the electricity consumed within its network.
According to him, the MDAs debt to-date stands at N22.5 billion.
He identified metering gap, restive customers or hostility in certain areas and agitation from pressure groups as constraints affecting EKEDC’s collection of payments.
Idemudia noted that others include non-payment by Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs); limitations by National Electricity Regulation Commission (NERC) regulations; and entitlements by consumers due to the post-mentality of government-owned defunct National Electric Power Authority (NEPA).
He also identified price ceiling as one of the reasons mitigating the prepaid metering processes in the country.
Idemudia said the regulators had noted that if the MAPs go ahead to sell the meters at a higher rate, the Distribution Companies (DisCos) would bear the balance.
The spokesman explained that the price ceiling had prolonged negotiation between the DisCos and some of the MAP operators, while another major challenge had been funding.
‘’However, the Federal Government in its wisdom came up with the MAP scheme as a permanent solution and we are excited to see the outcome of the initiative,’’ he said.
Idemudia, however, noted that meter installation under the MAP scheme is in progress within the company’s network.
According to him, the DisCo has arrested and prosecuted 13 customers for vandalism and 12 for energy theft in the last six months
NERC had on April 5, this year, directed all DisCos to commence the distribution of prepaid meters under MAP not later than May 1, 2019.

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‘Adequate Data, Key To Effective Housing Delivery’

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A real estate developer, Mr Samuel Ukpong, has identified provision of adequate data and adherence to rules and regulations as key to effective housing delivery.
Ukpong, a former Chairman of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers, Lagos Chapter, made the observation in Lagos, yesterday.
He said that adequate data was a critical component of housing delivery and finance.
According to him, understanding of the income and mortgage data of the population of a place is of utmost importance in planning for housing.
He said that the lack of data was a major constraint undermining private sector participation and good policy engagement in provision of affordable housing.
“Record of the total population of the people, the number living in decent houses, number of those still in need of houses and the figure of the available housing stock, are all necessary to serve as a guide in planning and delivery houses.
“The right data leads to information, information leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to good decisions,” he said.
Ukpong said that development of a housing finance data in Nigeria would assist policy makers, developers and investors to grow the housing sector.
He said, “We need good and enough information to be able to provide good and affordable housing for the population; if we have accurate data, we will be able to plan well.”
Ukpong said that there was the need for proper education of stakeholders in the housing sector, adding that non-compliance to construction regulations and standards also militated against housing development.
According to him, contractors, developers, regulators and end-users of houses need to be well informed on the rules and standards of constructions.
“The education will strengthen cooperation among players in the industry, particularly contractors and clients, who cut corners to maximise profit in the course of housing constructions.
“The long term effect of compromising standards will affect the durability of the houses, which will invariably result in reduction in housing stock,” he said.

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