New agric policy to tackle food import bill, others Needs 20% budgetary allocation to work –AFAN
Nigeria still imports about $3 to $5 billion worth of food annually and earns a paltry foreign exchange from agriculture, which used to be the mainstay of the nation’s economy.
A new agriculture policy launched recently by the federal government seeks to address these vexing issues, among others.
According to the Agriculture minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh, due to the unacceptable situation that has persisted over the years, “It became paramount to ‘refresh our strategy’ to tackle these two issues head on. Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) is that refreshed strategy.
“In 2016 to 2020, Nigeria’s policy now needs to be readjusted to solve the aforementioned challenges.
“The go forward federal priorities (in partnership with state governments) will be the following four: food security; import substitution; job creation; and economic diversification,” the policy document obtained by Daily Trust read in part.
The minister pointed out that the purpose of the new policy was to provide a disciplined approach to building an agribusiness ecosystem that will address the two serious challenges.
“The private sector will remain in the lead while government facilitates, as well as provides supporting infrastructure, systems, control processes and oversight,” Chief Ogbeh stated.
The new policy, which will build on the successes and lessons learnt from the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the immediate past administration and close key gaps, is anchored on three main pillars: promotion of agricultural investment; financing agricultural development programmes; and research for agricultural innovation and productivity.
The specific objectives of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for agriculture as stated in the 2016 – 2020 policy document are to achieve: agriculture sector GDP growth of 6% - 12%, allowing agricultural household income to double in 6 – 12 years, holding all else equal; 75% agriculture’s share of non-oil exports earnings; and 2% agriculture’s share of federal budget.
Another specific objective is to promote the responsible use of land, water and other natural resources to create a vibrant agricultural sector offering employment and livelihood for a growing population.
Also among the objectives is to create a mechanism for improved governance of agriculture by the supervising institutions, and improving quality of engagement between the federal and state governments.
Three thematic interventions aimed at unlocking the full potential under the new APP as listed in the document include: productivity enhancements; crowding in private sector investment; and Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s institutional realignment.
Reacting to the policy, the President of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Architect Kabir Ibrahim, said it would not work if the government failed to dedicate at least 10% of annual national budget to agriculture within the stated period as stated in the Maputo declaration.
“This year is out of it as adequate allocation was not given to agriculture. From 2017 onwards, up to 20% should be allocated to the sector to make the policy work. That’s the opinion of the farmers,” he pointed out.
The AFAN president described building on the successes and lessons of the ATA of the past administration by the new government in the new policy as a good initiative which will ensure continuity.
He said the new policy was inclusive as AFAN was involved in the deliberations that led to its emergence at various fora.
Commenting on the new policy, Mr. Ajijelek Paul Akusuk, a fruit and vegetables farmer in Plateau State, described it as a good development, saying, “The Green Initiative is a deliberate effort by the government to change Nigeria from a consumer economy to a producer economy, which will improve the GDP of the country and ease the economic tension in the nation.”
He urged the government to demonstrate strong political will towards its urgent and proper implementation.