Nigeria, for a long time, has remained an exporter of primary agricultural produce. Efforts to add value to the farm produce before exporting have, at best, been half-hearted with minimal results. Even the crude oil which is the nation’s economic mainstay is exported without adding value in terms of refining. What this means is that the nation is not earning enough from these commodities as the prices are arbitrarily fixed by the buyers who then add value to them and return same to the country as finished goods also at prices fixed by them. Invariably, the country has not been able to maximize the gains from the real value of the exported produce as it has not been able to fully harness its strength in the area of value addition.
Though produce like cocoa, cotton, groundnut and palm oil sustained the economy of the pre-independence and immediate post-independence Nigeria, they were all exported in their raw form without added value. Perhaps, this inability to add value has cost the country much more than can be imagined in the farming sector resulting in poor revenue yield which has in turn made agriculture less attractive. But the country needs to embrace the practice of adding value partly, if not wholly, so as to build up the sector and enhance her export drive.
Most international consumers would rather have the agricultural produce processed and packaged in a way that facilitates their delivery and entry into the export market. If this is pursued with the desired vigour, Nigeria, like several other countries, will benefit from her exports. Many of these countries have gone beyond building their economy to carving out a niche for themselves in international trade. For instance, Ethiopia in the Agricultural sector, has built its economy through coffee.
It is from this perspective that we commend ongoing plans by the government to train farmers on how to add value to crops they produce in line with international best practices so as to make them acceptable. It is the opinion of this newspaper that it is time Nigeria fixed the discrepancies between production, processing and exports from the grassroots. We emphasise that the way to go is through the training and education of local farmers to add value to farm produce before selling them to a target market.
Changing a raw agricultural product into something new through processing, cooling, drying, extracting, packaging or any other type of value addition that differentiates the final product from the original raw commodity has a value chain reaction that not only yields revenue but also creates jobs and boosts the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). According to Indexmundi, agriculture value added percentage into GDP in Nigeria was at 21.21 as of 2016. Its highest value over the past 35 years was 48.57 in 2002, while its lowest value was 20.24 in 2014. This simple statistic is enough proof that with the right policy in place in terms of value addition, the nation’s agricultural sector has the potential to play its role in the economy.
To this extend, it is important that local farmers look beyond farming for sustenance and see themselves as agri-businessmen and women contributing, in a meaningful way, through value addition to the growth of the nation’s GDP.
We suggest that the federal government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, encourage local farmers by investing in their training on the relevance of adding value to their produce before exporting them. Nigeria may have come out of the recession but it is not yet out of the woods. Farming can be made attractive through this training so that at the end, farmers see themselves not only as farmers but as businessmen and women.
It is our considered view that the government should mark out the most sought after farm goods, and those with potentials internationally, encourage the farmers to increase their production levels, process and add value to them in preparation for export. The country will not only be building her economy through this plan, but ensuring food security as well. This procedure will in turn create more job opportunities for the youths of the country, helping them to not only be hardworking, but also be creative.
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