How Nige­ria can grow agric-based econ­omy

Daily Trust - - GOLDEN HARVEST -

Fran­cis Arinze Iloani

For Nige­ria to sur­vive crash­ing in­ter­na­tional oil price, de­plet­ing na­tional rev­enues, de­val­u­a­tion of the Naira, high un­em­ploy­ment rate and skyrocketing poverty rate, the coun­try must shift from oil-based econ­omy to agric-based econ­omy.

This forms the crust of dis­cus­sions at the ple­nary ses­sion of the 1st Daily Trust Agric Con­fer­ence and Ex­hi­bi­tion held in Abuja on Tues­day.

The ple­nary on ‘How Agribusi­ness Can Im­pact Pos­i­tively on Nige­ria’s Econ­omy’ was chaired by the Chair­man of Honey­well Group, Dr. Oba Otudeko.

The pan­elists, com­pris­ing of speak­ers and dis­cus­sants, agreed on the need to di­ver­sify the econ­omy from its cur­rent state and ac­tion­able rec­om­men­da­tions on how to build an agric-based econ­omy were pro­posed.

The Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of the Bank of Industry (BOA), Pro­fes­sor Dan­bala Danju, said food pro­duc­tion in Africa, par­tic­u­larly in Nige­ria, is not catch­ing up with pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion in the re­gion un­like other parts of the world such as South­east Asia.

He ob­served that al­though there has been 27 per cent re­duc­tion in the num­ber of peo­ple who go to bed hun­gry in the last 10 years glob­ally, the sit­u­a­tion in Nige­ria leaves much to be de­sired.

He pointed out to the con­fer­ence that 32 per cent of peo­ple on the African con­ti­nent still go to bed hun­gry, and Nige­ria has a share of that star­tling statis­tics.

Pro­fes­sor Danju blamed food in­suf­fi­ciency in Nige­ria on the ne­glect of the agri­cul­tural sec­tor of the econ­omy due to in­flow of for­eign ex­change from crude oil sales.

He drew the at­ten­tion of par­tic­i­pants to so­cial prob­lems such as high fer­til­ity rate, high mor­tal­ity rate, ac­cel­er­ated ru­ral-ur­ban mi­gra­tion, in­se­cu­rity and pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion in the coun­try as part of the prob­lem.

Es­tab­lish­ing a re­la­tion­ship be­tween rel­a­tive de­clines in agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties in the coun­try with the in­sur­gency in some parts of the coun­try, Pro­fes­sor Danju cited ex­am­ples with the North­east where in­sur­rec­tion has af­fected farm­ing ac­tiv­i­ties re­mark­ably.

As a way around Nige­ria’s cur­rent $800m im­port bills, the pro­fes­sor rec­om­mended im­port sub­sti­tu­tion by re­plac­ing some im­ports se­lec­tively with what is pro­duced lo­cally.

“This will save us some for­eign ex­change and also pro­vide em­ploy­ment, some in­come and in turn some mar­kets for our do­mes­tic pro­duced goods,” he said.

To grow the agric sec­tor, he rec­om­mended com­mu­nity ir­ri­ga­tion projects to be pi­loted in 10 states across the coun­try for year-round agric ac­tiv­i­ties made pos­si­ble by ir­ri­ga­tion and crop ro­ta­tion.

If suc­cess­ful, he rec­om­mended fur­ther that the project should be repli­cated in other parts of the county to achieve the de­sired food suf­fi­ciency.

Do­ing jus­tice to the theme of the ple­nary, the Pres­i­dent of the All Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (AFAN), Arch. Ibrahim Kabiru, re­minded par­tic­i­pants at the con­fer­ence that Nige­ri­ans at­tended schools in the 1960s with the pro­ceeds from agric ac­tiv­i­ties, re­gret­ting that oil boom turned the at­ten­tion of suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments away from the sec­tor.

“It is my can­did opin­ion that a na­tion colonised be­cause of its agri­cul­tural po­ten­tials should not sud­denly aban­don that for merely dis­cov­er­ing oil,” he said.

Speak­ing from the per­spec­tive of a farmer, he pointed out that ac­cess to fi­nance has been a ma­jor chal­lenge to the farm­ing com­mu­nity.

“If the ma­jor­ity of the Nige­rian farm­ers, whose pop­u­la­tion ac­counts for 70 per cent of the na­tional pop­u­la­tion sys­tem­at­i­cally get out of the shack­les of poverty and at­tain food se­cu­rity, Nige­ria will au­to­mat­i­cally pros­per as a na­tion,” he said.

He rec­om­mended that gov­ern­ment must ad­dress the is­sue of land ten­ure and doc­u­men­ta­tion of own­er­ship, adding that a sit­u­a­tion where a farmer has a land in some­where but can­not use the same land to ob­tain a loan from a bank be­cause he has no Cer­tifi­cate of Oc­cu­pancy (C of O) is un­ac­cept­able.

Arch. Kabiru made a case for the adop­tion of agro-eco­log­i­cal and biotech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions for the de­vel­op­ment of the agric sec­tor of the econ­omy.

The Pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­tural Com­modi­ties As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (FACAN), Dr. Vic­tor Halim Iyama, told the con­fer­ence that agri­cul­ture can gen­er­ate $100bn to $200bn per year if the right poli­cies are put in place.

Cit­ing fur­ther ex­am­ple, he said $39bn can be gen­er­ated from oil palm alone per year, adding that ne­glect has not al­lowed the crop to reach its po­ten­tials in terms of rev­enue gen­er­a­tion for the coun­try.

Dr. Iyama lamented that there has been more talk and less ac­tion over the years on how to grow agribusi­ness in the coun­try.

He said the coun­try is not bereft of ideas on how to turn­around the woos of the econ­omy us­ing agribusi­ness ex­cept that the ideas are locked up in files domi­ciled in the Fed­eral Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment due to non-im­ple­men­ta­tion.

Cor­rob­o­rat­ing pre­vi­ous speak­ers, he agreed that oil boom cor­rupted struc­tures put in place over the years for the de­vel­op­ment of the agri­cul­tural sec­tor of the econ­omy.

He ob­served that in­con­sis­tency in gov­ern­ment poli­cies such as the re­cent lift­ing of the ban on rice im­por­ta­tion and in­ad­e­quate fund­ing of re­search in­sti­tutes com­pound the prob­lems mil­i­tat­ing against agribusi­ness in the coun­try.

The dis­cus­sion ses­sion of the ple­nary held par­tic­i­pants spell­bound as dis­cus­sants made re­veal­ing pro­nounce­ments.

The Co-or­di­na­tor, Agribusi­ness Com­mu­nity of Agri­cul­tural Stake­hold­ers of Nige­ria, Mr. Sotonye Anga, re­vealed that in a year, Nige­ria spends N6.2trn on food, cal­cu­lated based on N100 per per­son per day.

He said with pro­jec­tions on pop­u­la­tion growth, the amount will sky­rocket to N12trn per year just for feed­ing in the near­est fu­ture.

Mr Anga said for the coun­try to meet up with the de­mand and avoid los­ing the monies to other coun­tries through im­por­ta­tion of food, farm­ers must be em­pow­ered to pro­duce what Nige­ri­ans con­sume do­mes­ti­cally.

A rice farmer, Mr. Ro­timi Wil­liams, said the pol­icy in­con­sis­tency with the lift on ban of rice im­por­ta­tion makes sense on a sec­ond thought as this will re­duce rice smug­gling and earn the fed­eral gov­ern­ment some rev­enues.

He said in 2012 when gov­ern­ment in­creased rice im­port duty by about 100 per cent, two mil­lion tons of par­boiled rice was im­ported into Cot­tonu and most of them were smug­gled into the coun­try as Nige­ri­ans are the peo­ple in the area that con­sume par­boiled rice.

“All that rice came into Nige­ria with no duty, noth­ing and I also un­der­stand and know from the bor­ders that monies were ex­changed per bag be­tween N1,500 to N2,000 and that’s N60bn in cash,” he said.

He how­ever ex­pressed con­cern with what gov­ern­ment in­tends to do with the monies to be gen­er­ated from the im­port duty on rice, adding that such monies should be chan­nelled into the de­vel­op­ment of lo­cal rice pro­duc­tion.

In his sub­mis­sions, an Agric Con­sul­tant, Engr. She­drack Madilon, noted that one way to fix some of the prob­lems be­ing wit­nessed in the agribusi­ness is to fix the prob­lem in the north­east of the coun­try.

He said the re­gion used to be one of the ma­jor sup­pli­ers of foods con­sumed in the coun­try but the in­sur­gency in the re­gion has af­fected the sup­ply of beans and other prod­ucts from Biu, Po­tiskum, Marte and Ga­sua to other parts of the coun­try.

He lamented that cur­rently, 114 si­los across the coun­try are empty due to de­clin­ing sup­plies of agri­cul­tural pro­duce.

De­cry­ing the dearth of agric ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers in the coun­try, he said there are 175 farm­ers to one of­fi­cer, a sit­u­a­tion which has made com­pe­ti­tion with farm­ers in other parts of the world im­pos­si­ble.

Engr. Madilon called on gov­ern­ment to pro­vide farm­ers with ex­ten­sion of­fi­cers, new im­proved seeds and other nec­es­sary sup­ports for them to thrive and make good re­turns from farm­ing busi­ness.

PHOTO Ikechukwu Ibe

From left: Mr. Bode Opadokun, MD, Nige­rian Agri­cul­tural In­sur­ance Cor­po­ra­tion, Mrs Za­heera Baba-Ari, MD, Nige­ria Com­mon­dity Ex­change and Dr. In­no­cent Okuku, Group head of com­mer­cial, No­tore Chem­i­cal In­dus­tries all speak­ers at Day 2 of the Daily Trust Agric con­fab in Abuja yes­ter­day.

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