NEWEST rice’ll improve Nigeria’s food security — Expert

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By Sylvester Thompson
Abuja, June 22, 2022 Dr Rose Gidado, Country Coordinator of Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology (OFAB), said the new rice variety on field trial as genetically modified crop would boost food security in Nigeria.

She named the variety as the Nitrogen-use Efficient, Water-use Efficient and Salt Tolerant (NEWEST) rice project in Nigeria.

Gidado said this in an interview with newsmen , in Abuja on Wednesday.
According to her, NEWEST rice and virus resistant cassava with elevated levels of iron and zinc are among the four genetically modified crops undergoing field trials in the country.

She also said the genetically modified TELA maize was already on farmers’ fields for demonstration trials for the enhancement of adoption.

Gidado, also Deputy Director, National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), said the NEWEST rice would also help improve the livelihood of small scale farmers in Nigeria and sub-Sahara Africa.

“The demand for rice in Nigeria is put at about 5.9 million metric tonnes per annum, while the local production is about four million metric tonnes.

“Every year Nigeria spends about N1 billion daily which translates into $2 billion per annum to import rice due to insufficient local production.

“Drought, salinity, nitrogen deficiency, and iron toxicity are re-occurring problems of rice production, devastating rain-fed low-land rice ecology in Nigeria,’’ Gidado said.

The expert, however, expressed optimism that the NEWEST rice would develop nitrogen-use, water-use efficient and salt tolerant rice varieties using advanced and modern agricultural technologies.

She hinted that the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) was the facilitator and hornets broker of the technology.

Gidado said the foundation looked forward to achieving, via the technology, production of rice varieties with reduced fertilizer application, improve rice productivity in nitrogen deficient, water deficient and saline environment of sub-Sahara Africa.

The Coordinator further said that the foundation, with the technology, would reduce labour and capital intensiveness for rice farmers.

Gidado said the TELA maize project on farmers’ field for demonstration trial for adoption had proved to have 17 per cent increase per yield with reduction in number of sprays among other benefits.

“It also has great contribution to addressing food security and impact of climate change in Africa.

“Farmers in Nigeria will greatly benefit from rapid deregulation and commercialisation of TELA maize with DT and Bt (biotech) genes,’’ she said.