NTMA Throws Its Weight Behind Release of BT Cotton for Nigerian Farmers

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                Cotton

By Abdallah el-Kurebe

The Nigerian Textile Manufacturers Association (NTMA) has expressed its support for ‎the environmental release and commercialization of genetically modified Bt Cotton, which is known to be resistant against pests for Nigerian farmers.

A position paper signed by the Acting Director General of the Association, Hamma Kwajaffa noted that while the Nigerian 
textile industry was a strategic non-oil sector and the largest after oil and agriculture, it was also the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

According to the Association, the cotton potential in Nigeria was because of the country’s blessed abundant raw materials, specially cotton and polyester chips (petrochemical), adding that the industry had a high potential for added value generation from raw material to finished goods and is a major employer of urban and rural populations.

“It is estimated that about 30,000 Nigerians are employed in the textile industry and an additional one million small farmers and labourers are both in direct cotton production and within the value chain, probably supporting five million more people. This is a sharp contrast from over 400,000 people employed across over 250 textile mills in the country in the 80s,” the statement read.

The Association commended the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogonnaya Onu who recently said, when he received the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa – Nigeria Chapter, that the government had interest in utilizing the potentials of Bt Cotton to revive the industry. 

Applauding government’s establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) to address issues of human health as well as environmental safety concerns, the Association adviced the regulating Agency “to engage the farmers in high level education as the whole GMO farming emanates from educated farmers like in the US, India, Brazil, Greece, Argentina, etc.”

It added that the recent application by Monsanto for the environmental release and commercialization of  genetically modified Bt Cotton could play an immense role in making cotton farming attractive “as well as reviving and repositioning the textile sector.”

It further added that the science-based review process by regulatory agencies and independent experts that the application was currently undergoing would ascertain the safety to human and animal health as well as the environment, of the proposed product.

“Lack of confidence by participants across the value chain over the years is restricting much-needed investment and one of the root causes of this is tied to the most important input in the industry, the cotton crop,” the statement continued, adding, “Seed quality remains a problem affecting yield and by implication, farmers’ income and motivation to cultivate. The prevalence of pests which leads to increased expenses in pesticides (thereby unnecessarily hiking cost of inputs upwards) is also another contributing factor.”

THE FULL TEXT:

THE NIGERIAN TEXTILE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION:

OUR POSITION FOR THE ENVIRONMENTAL RELEASE AND PLACING IN MARKET OF GENETICALLY MODIFIED INSECT-PROTECTED (BT) COTTON 

The textile industry in Nigeria is a strategic non-oil industry and the largest industry in the country after oil and agriculture. In addition, it is the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Its potential is derived from it being located in Nigeria, a country blessed with abundant raw material potential and especially cotton and polyester chips (petrochemical). The industry has a high potential for added value generation from raw material to finished goods and is a major employer of urban and rural populations.

It is estimated that about 30,000 Nigerians are employed in the textile industry and an additional one million small farmers and labourers are both in direct cotton production and within the value chain, probably supporting five million more people. This is a sharp contrast from over 400,000 people employed across over 250 textile mills in the country in the 80s.

Lack of confidence by participants across the value chain over the years is restricting much-needed investment and one of the root causes of this is tied tightly to the most important input in the industry, the cotton crop. 

Cotton farming in Nigeria over the years has suffered because the opportunity cost of planting cotton has remained high. Cotton does not compete favourably against other lower risk crops and this has led to a dwindling of farmers involved in cultivating the crop over time. In addition, seed quality remains a problem affecting yield and by implication, farmers’ income and motivation to cultivate. The prevalence of pests which leads to increased expenses in pesticides (thereby unnecessarily hiking cost of inputs upwards) is also another contributing factor. 

With all of these affecting cotton farming, it is no surprise therefore that attraction to the business is on the decline. Scarcity, poor quality or unattractive pricing of this raw material has direct consequences on our industry, causing it to contract with every passing year and stunting its ability to take its place as a potential key contributor to the economy especially now that the government of the day is exploring non-oil revenue options to boost public finance.

We therefore view the recent submission of an application for the environmental release and placing in market of  Genetically Modified insect protected (Bt) Cotton  that can play an immense role in restoring attraction to cotton farming as well as reviving and repositioning the textile sector as a welcome development capable of reviving the entire industry. 

The recent establishment of the National Biosafety Management Agency by the Nigerian government, to help safeguard human health and environmental safety concerns that the introduction of one of these critical technologies may generate among members of the public.

The agency in furtherance of its mandate, has commenced the process of reviewing this application presently before it. The application is currently undergoing a science-based review process together with relevant regulatory agencies and independent experts to ascertain that the proposed product is safe to human and animal health and to the environment.

Finally it behoves on the BT Cotton regulators to engage the farmers in high level education as the whole GMO farming emanates from educated farmers like in the US, INDIA, BRAZIL ,GREECE, ARGENTINA etc.

The Application submitted by Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd, a leading company in agricultural sustainability, is for the consideration of Environmental release and placing in market of genetically modified insect-protected (Bt) cotton in Nigeria. 

This protection is expected to improve cotton lint quality and farmers will benefit increase yields due to reduced insect-pest damage. 

We are pleased that this is coming on the heels of recent comments from the Honourable Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogonnaya Onu – when a team from the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa, Nigeria Chapter visited him – that the government’s interest in utilizing the potentials of bt-Cotton to revive the industry. 

Of recent the Textile Industry has had a barrage of shortage of the commodity and even when available it by far surpasses the international price so, the thinking is that when it is produced in surplus, local industry should be able to purchase it at regulated prices and again farmers would be able to export.

Thanks you.

FOR: NIGERIAN TEXTILE MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION

Signed

HAMMA A.KWAJAFFA

AG DIRECTOR GENERAL

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