Agri­cul­ture Nige­ria’s ‘new oil’ – Ak­abueze

Daily Trust - - NEWS - By Ade­lanwa Bamg­boye & Cle­ment A. Oloyede

Agri­cul­ture is the “new oil” for Nige­ria and the only way to get the coun­try out of the present eco­nomic down­turn, the Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, Bud­get Of­fice of the Fed­er­a­tion, Ben Ak­abueze, has said.

He spoke Thurs­day night at the La­gos Busi­ness School Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion Abuja Zonal din­ner at the Transcorp Hil­ton Ho­tel, Abuja.

Ak­abueze said there were two al­ter­na­tives to oil-agri­cul­ture (as Nige­ria’s best shot to im­proved econ­omy) and solid min­er­als, where Nige­ria still had a long way to go.

Ex­plain­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties in agri­cul­ture, he said over 79mil­lion hectares of the to­tal land mass in Nige­ria were arable with less than 50% al­ready be­ing cul­ti­vated. “Nige­ria is only be­hind Brazil with this much arable land mass,” he said.

He said Ethiopia’s econ­omy that was built on agri­cul­ture and had been grow­ing on an aver­age of 11% was a chal­lenge to Nige­ria. He said the coun­try which had half the pop­u­la­tion of Nige­ria could boast of about 45,000 ex­ten­sion work­ers while Nige­ria had fewer than 10,000. As a way for­ward, about 100,000 Nige­ri­ans would be trained as agri­cul­tural ex­ten­sion work­ers, he said.

As an in­tro­duc­tion, he said for the first time since 2004, Nige­ria had recorded neg­a­tive growth in its econ­omy, adding that al­though the result for the sec­ond quar­ter was not yet out, Nige­ria would be of­fi­cially in re­ces­sion, a sit­u­a­tion which last oc­curred in 1994. He added that de­spite the neg­a­tive growth in the econ­omy, agri­cul­ture grew at about 3%.

He high­lighted some of the fac­tors that led to the present eco­nomic down­turn to in­clude a global growth slow­down which av­er­aged 3.1%. Nige­ria closed 2015 at 2.9%.

Oth­ers in­clude the slump in oil price and in­sur­gency. He said Nige­ria was not able to take ad­van­tage of the in­crease in the price of oil at the global mar­ket which had risen to N42 per bar­rel as against the bench­mark of N38 per bar­rel be­cause of the drop in pro­duc­tion from the pro­jected 2.2 mil­lion per bar­rel as a result of the ac­tiv­i­ties of mil­i­tants in the Niger Delta.

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