Private-sector led agric production may weather electioneering impact – analysts
Amid the uncertainties gathering alongside electioneering activities in the country, analysts appear confident that agricultural production driven by privatesector support will not be adversely affected.
For crop such as cocoa, there are strong prospects that output for 2018/19 season will experience reasonable growth of about 15 percent if farmers in producing regions are able to scale through poor weather conditions.
Prices may also marginally increase during the first quarter, although a dip is projected to occur towards October, which marks the beginning of 2019/2020 farming season. These forecasts are predicated on a trend of growth in production, which usually follows seasons of low harvest.
Agricultural activities last year were largely distressed by flooding which ravaged 80 percent of the country, including several farmlands across Abia, Jigawa, CrossRiver and Kebbi states, among others.
The disaster coupled with clashes between farmers and herders in the northeast affected the volume and quality of food production in 2018, causing the sector to decline to 1.19 percent in the second quarter and 1.91 percent in the third quarter, despite beginning the year with 3 percent growth in the first quarter.
In spite of analysts’ optimism, there are general concerns that electioneering will not allow much of policy focus on agriculture before and after the polls, thereby weakening growth potential further. The implication is that implementation of budget- ary allocations to the various crops will suffer decline into the first half of the year and may perhaps pick up slowly midway into the second half if the ruling party returns to power. Should it be viceversa, continuity in current schemes to boost agricultural production, such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) or the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI), may be discontinued for fresh programmes, which might also delay in taking shape.
“There might be tectonic shift in the policy direction in a case where the same party gets back into power because over the period of this past, agriculture has been driven essentially by the Central Bank of Nigeria,” said an official familiar with the matter.
“Whether or not the same party in power comes back, agricultural intervention will not start immediately. So, the whole of the first half of the year will be gone. Even before appropriation comes into effect, and before fund release, we are already falling into the second half of the year, in which case the bulk of the southern part of the country would have been fully into production on their cost,” said the official.
Emmanuel Ijiwere, vicepresident, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, shares the same sentiment and believes the lack of focus or a likely change of government will affect the sector’s performance, except continuity is ensured in the implementation of policies like the low-interest rate window provided to farmers last year.
The CBN, in the bid to boost the productive sector of the economy, allowed agricultural and manufacturing sectors to obtain loans from commercial banks at a fixed interest rate of 9 percent last August but the impact has yet to trickle down to farmers into production.
L-R: Uzor Sunday Okolie, business development division, Sigma Pensions: Akinbode Adedayo, social worker, Hikanos Orphanage: Adaora Ude, head, Strategy, Sigma Pensions: Afolabi Oloyede, manager, Hikanos Orphanage, and Kehinde Aiyeola, business development department, Sigma Pensions, during the visit and donation of goods to Hikanos Orphanage for the ‘Dearsigmasanta’ CSR initaive in Lagos, yesterday. Pic by David Apara