The Federal Government on Wednesday, granted licences to 158 new seed companies to commence production of quality seeds to boost agricultural activities in the country and the West African sub-region.

The Director General, National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) Dr Philip Ojo, gave this hint during a media conference at Sheda, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The NASC’s boss explained that government gave the approval for the seed entrepreneurs of different categories to address the problems of accessibility and quality assurance.

Ojo said that the approval became necessary in order to allow more players in the seed industry to produce and distribute quality seeds to farmers based on their demands within the country and other African countries.

This is even as he explained that out of the 158 new seed entrepreneurs, 10 were foreign companies while the remaining 148 were Nigerian companies, noting further that though gap in seed availability upon demand by farmers still exists but that with the new licensing of new seed companies the gap will be bridged to a large extent.

The NASC’s boss clarified: “The Governing Board of NASC under the chairmanship of the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Chief Audu Ogbeh, has ratified and approved the licensing of 158 new seed entrepreneurs of different categories to add to the existing 156 already operating.

“I want to assure you that this is borne out of the determination to allow many qualified entrepreneurs to explore the bidding liberalized landscape of the seed industry.

“I wish to inform you and allay your fears that most of these newly licensed companies are not greenhorns in the business but are mostly out-growers, with long years of experience, and have acquired necessary facilities in relevant categories they have been classified into after due assessment by the NASC.

“With these new entrants, the board has approved 16 new small-scale companies, 133 producer and seller entrepreneurs and 9 seed dealers. We all know that presently the seed supply-demand gap is still wide and there are more calls from our neighbouring countries that look up to us for their seed supply. This underscores that the industry is not yet saturated as some may think.

“The question may arise in the minds of watchers of the industry, but I want to assure you that this is borne out of the determination to allow many qualified entrepreneurs to explore the budding liberalised landscape of the seed industry.

“We all know that presently the seed supply-demand gap is still wide and there are more calls from our neighbouring countries that look up to us for their seed supply. This underscores the point that the industry is not yet saturated as some may think”, Ojo added.

Noting that Nigeria now has 314 seed entrepreneurs, comprising four large-scale, seven medium scale, 39 small scale, 223 produce sellers and 20 seed dealers, he disclosed that 21 seed entrepreneurs were classified as inactive during the recertification exercise.

According to him, the seed council is not interested in number of seed entrepreneurs but the quality seeds provided to farmers as the council carried out a periodic evaluation exercise of all the initially licensed 156 companies with a view to evaluating and assessing their infrastructure, personnel capacity and capability, production capacity and operational efficiency to ascertain if they still meet up their status or rating.

Ojo disclosed the findings from the exercise led to the upgrading of six companies who had improved their infrastructure, quality assurance systems, and personnel while 75 were downgraded.