Hope rises for textile industry as NBMA approves hybrid cotton
For many years, all that had been happening in the biotechnology space had been much noise as no tangible result could be seen on the ground despite the creation of the National Biotechnology Development Agency and subsequently, the National
However, tangible results are now near following the approval for the environmental release of the high yielding transgenic hybrid cotton which is tolerant to bollworm complex.
Speaking on the new cotton variety, Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, stated that the new cotton variety was a clear evidence that technology could be used to tackle the challenges of the country.
He said, “The BT cotton variety was developed with our variety of cotton. We are going to double the yield and also the tolerance, even the quality of the fibre will be better and also the oil content.”
Acting Director -General of NABDA, Prof Alex Akpa, said that to generate yields at economically viable scales for the Nigerian farmer, it had become necessary for genetic engineering techniques to be integrated into crop production.
He said, “Many great countries of the world have adopted various aspects of genetic engineering to meet challenges in crop production, health and environment. Genetic engineering applied to agriculture is no different from the scion-stock technology that predated other mid-level and even the high-level crop engineering technologies of our time.
“The difference is that with higher level precision, GE eliminates the trial-and-error incidences of the previous low-precision bio-techniques. In line with the challenges of our time including the effects of high temperature, low rainfall in some areas, perennial flooding in others, it has become pertinent to embrace newer and more advanced natural abilities.”
National Coordinator of the Open Forum for Agricultural Biotechnology, Dr Rose Gidado, told our correspondent that the approval of the new cotton variety could not have come at a better time than at the time that the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria had taken a stand to discourage importation of fabrics into the country in order to revamp the local textile industry.
Gidado said, “The textile industry is going to be revamped. The industry is going to be vibrant again and an active employer of labour. It had been in comatose because of the paucity of raw materials. Productivity went very low. We had to use a lot of chemicals.
“Cotton farmers left cotton farming and went into other crops. With the approval of the BT cotton, it is a welcome development for the farmers and all stakeholders. The yield will increase. The yield of the new BT cotton is between 4.1 tonnes and 4.4 tonnes per hectare. The ordinary cotton yields about 250Kg to 900Kg per hectare.
“The Federal Government has taken a stand on this – to revamp the textile industry. On Tuesday, there was a meeting of the Textile and Garment Manufacturers and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria. I was there at the meeting.
“The CBN Governor is to take it upon himself. He has got directive from the President to ensure the revamping of the textile and garment industry.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr Bitrus Nabasu, also hinged the focus on cotton by the scientific and agricultural community on the need to revamp the textile industry and locally satisfy the huge demand for clothing in the country.
Nabasu said, “Why cotton? You may ask. The answer is not farfetched. With well over 180 million Nigerians needing textile for clothing and other products, cotton lint, a raw material for textile manufacturing, has been a major item on the Nigerian import list.
“Today, we have set the stage for self-sufficiency in the production of cotton as industrial raw material and subsequent transformation of the textile industry.”
Gidado projected that by 2020, the newly approved BT cotton will begin to make its impact not only on the income of cotton farmers but also on the economy of the nation as a whole. She also said that the commercialisation of the product would happen in 2020.
The second GM product which recently received the approval of the National Biosafety Management Agency is the BT Cowpea popularly known as beans. The commercialisation of the crop is also expected to happen in 2020.
Executive Secretary, Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria, Mr Saidu Madagwa, said the approval of the new variety was a befitting tribute to almost a decade of dedicated work towards the development of Maruca resistant cowpea in Nigeria.
He said, “Nigerian cowpea farmers are faced with many challenges in their quest to increase productivity over the years, including the devastating effects of Maruca, both on farm and in storage, resulting in low and fluctuating yields, as well as risks and fluctuations in incomes and food availability.
“The release of BT cowpea will, therefore, no doubt, impact positively on increasing cowpea yields and enhance livelihood of the farmers.”
As stakeholders take the next step towards commercialisation of BT cotton and BT cowpea, Gidado, said there was a lot to expect in the coming year.