Producing seeds to meet the challenges of the environment

prof Ogungbile
prof Ogungbile

Premier Seeds Nigeria Limited is the foremost indigenous company that is involved in the development, production and marketing of hybrid seeds for farmers. The Company engages in a very active and versatile Research and Development activities to ensure that it continues to produce seeds that will meet the challenges of the dynamic environmental and farm production needs of farmers. Professor Abraham Ogungbile, the Managing Director/CEO of the company is a versatile and seasoned professional whose contribution to the development of Agriculture in Nigeria cannot be rivaled. The erudite scholar spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with NnamdiNwokolo.

What influenced the establishment of Premier Seeds Limited?
INTERESTINGLY, when you talk about the value chain in agriculture, the beginning of the chain is seeds. Seeds are the mother of every other thing you produce, so, it is a key factor in that chain. Seeds contribute 50% 0f agricultural productivity and as the beginning of production, if you get it right, then, every other thing will be productive. The inspiration to set up premier seeds was to use my intellect and professional experience to contribute to the development of agriculture and ensure food security in the country. We have dedicated ourselves to make sure that the right processes are followed to produce good seeds.

What has been the biggest challenge of running the organization?
The biggest challenge of running a seed company is funding. The challenge of funding is limiting the effectiveness of producing good seeds. First of all, you need funding to get started in terms of machinery, processing equipment and storage facilities. It is important to state that you need highly developed out-growers to be able to multiply seeds. We engage a lot of farmers in our out-growers scheme and without sounding immodest; we have over 2000-3000 farmers producing different seeds for us. If you don’t have the resources, you’ll not be able to meet the challenges of the environment. Beyond that, you also need funding to get farm inputs, fertilizers and agrochemicals. There is also the need to recover the seeds from the farmers, otherwise they will sell it as grains; this is a big challenge as you need funding to do that. Part of the challenge is poor distribution system and creating awareness for the seeds as well as developing the market to sell these seeds.

The biggest challenge of running a seed company is funding. The challenge of funding is limiting the effectiveness of producing good seeds. First of all, you need funding to get started in terms of machinery, processing equipment and storage facilities. It is important to state that you need highly developed out-growers to be able to multiply seeds

What measures has been put in place to meet the challenge of the dynamic environment?
Premier seeds Nigeria Limited is the foremost seed development company in the country and we’ve stood the test of time. Seeds as you know are scientifically produced; as such, the Research and Development Department of the Company, led by seasoned, highly trained and experienced plant breeders and supported by a team of Research Officers and field Assistants is involved with development of market-winning products, operating a highly developed out-growers scheme, of highly trained and motivated farmers to produce high quality foundation seeds for certified seed production of all our products. We have a research farm located on Zaria – Jos road on a 35 hectare land with irrigation facilities. It is used partly for the multiplication of our foundation seeds and for some trials. It is often used as site for conducting the nationally-coordinated trials involving the national Research Institutes and the International research Institutes, particularly, the National Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which has been working collaboratively with the company for over a decade.

Quality control:
Measures for quality seed production for all our commercial seeds are fully implemented including the use of genetically pure seeds of the various crops produced by the Research Department and given to farmers for certified seed production. The seed Technology Quality Control Laboratory, supervised by a highly qualified seed Technologists, conducts regular germination, viability, vigour and conductivity test on all seeds LOTS in the store for as long as they remain there, to detect deterioration, if any. Thus, all seeds sent to the zonal marketing stores nation-wide are of highest quality to meet the standards of the National Certification Agency for the country.

What can government do differently to help the industry?
There are lots of things the government needs to do differently like the provision of farm inputs, adoption of improved technologies as well as adequate investment in agriculture. We’ve been at the forefront of adopting agriculture as a business, so, we also need government to provide intervention funds for the farmers or at worst make loans available at a single digit interest rate. The Bank of Agriculture should be made more functional so that their impact will be felt by the farmers. The market awareness should be developed to let people know that it is more profitable to use improved seeds for production. There are constraints limiting our ability to export in terms of standards and flooding the market with imported seeds, and we expect the government to come in, set the standards and facilitate conditions for export.

Highlights of Research breakthroughs:
As the foremost seed company, you can imagine the challenges we went through to get to where we are today. That notwithstanding, we are fully committed to the provision of high quality seeds to feed the country, generate employment and contribute to food security in the country. We have developed own proprietary varieties. In this respect, three hybrid maize varieties have been released and registered by the National variety Release Committee. They are Oba 98, Oba 99 and Obafemi. Oba 98 and Oba 99 were recently registered as Quality Protein Maize (QPM) hybrids. The lysine and tryptophan contents of Oba 98 are 2.95 g/Kg and 0.08 g /Kg respectively, while those of Oba 99 are 2.90 g/Kg and 0.75 g/Kg respectively. Similar figures compared favourably with previously released open-pollinated quality protein maize (SAMMAZ 14) for lysine, 2.95 g/Kg, and tryptophan, 0.80 g/Kg.

What are your Focus/Projections for the organization?
We are the leading player in seed production industry and we intend to remain the foremost seed development company, through the provision of innovative, high quality, and affordable products in our market niche, with a view to achieving the benchmark for all seed development companies in Nigeria. My focus is to build a world class conglomerate that will outlive my person. In the next couple of years, we want to be at the forefront of providing hi-breed crops like sorghum etc. The things we do are governed by core values and beliefs, which include integrity and customer satisfaction with a view to be known as a company that helped in alleviating poverty and ensuring food security.

Succession plan:
The orgnisation was built on sustainable structures in the sense that the company runs on structures not on individuals. As we speak, there are a lot of people that we have consistently trained that in my absence, they can comfortably function as the MD/CEO of the company. I’ve been able to successfully instill the same passion to all our personnel at different levels. We have competent hands that have been trained over the years to take control of different departments of the company. The plan for succession has always been part of the operations of the company.

How do you maintain work/life balance?
The challenges are bound to be there but life is all about balancing act as everybody has his/her own role to play. My time at home is qualitative because in whatever I do, I put my family first. I try to find a balance between family and work. I enjoy relaxing in the midst of young people discussing ideas and I also love watching football.

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