The role agriculture has played in Nigeria’s economy cannot be overemphasised. Little wonder agriculture has been regarded as the most viable route with which Nigeria can meander from her current woes. Concerned by the need to boost the sector, the federal government, relevant stakeholders, partners and private institutions have so far been working tirelessly in promoting the role farmers play towards achieving sustainable food security. The Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted on 25 September, 2015 by Heads of State and Government at a special United Nation summit is seen by many as a welcomed development.
As a result of the dwindling performance of agriculture in the country, the government has over the years formulated and implemented various policies and projects aimed at putting back the agricultural sector to its vital place in the economy.
But no significant success has been achieved due to several problems confronting the the sector including the inglorious killings arising from farmers/herders clashes.
In late 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the pilot phase of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), to enhance agricultural productivity in the country and sustain prediction that Nigeria can be a world power in the agriculture sector, simply because the nation is blessed with abundance of natural resources to ensure that its strives. But as Nigeria herald 2019, what is the lookout of the agriculture sector?
Speaking on the outlook for agriculture in 2019, the minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed that the country was about to launch cocoa campaigns and reintroduce coffee to add to other products in the nation to achieve self-sufficiency.
Chief Ogbeh, who noted that Nigeria is the second largest producer of sorghum in the world, and the largest producer of rice in Africa followed by Mali, stated that the country was also the second largest producer of sesame seed after Ethiopia.
According to him, “We use to be number two in the world but went back to number seven, we have to climb to where we belong which is number one. We are reintroducing coffee which grows very well here, more robust in the southern state and on the plateau and Mambilla.
“We are the second largest producer of gum Arabic after Sudan. We are also the leader in yam and Cassava production. We are the largest producer of hibiscus flower Zobo which we export to Mexico and Russia.
“More so, recommendations have also been made by experts calling on the federal government to fix existential economic challenge confronting Nigeria, which are basically the core concerns of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) and the Agricultural Promotion Programme (APP) of the President Buhari-led administration which are designed to tackle food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency.”
In a chat with LEADERSHIP, an agricultural expert, Abdullahi Suleiman recalled that agriculture was the mainstay of the nation’s economy before the discovery of oil. He said it will be heart-warming if the new crave to return to the farms is efficiently bolstered to once more move up the country’s revenue in the face of dwindling global oil fortunes.
He urged the government to consolidate on its existing rice development framework otherwise called the Anchor Borrowers scheme, to further assist the farmers in growing more rice.
Suleiman who is also a large scale farmer said the expectations this year is for Nigerian farmers to produce over 7 million metric tonnes of rice (which is what we consume annually), to satisfy local demand, and even export to other countries to earn forex for farmers.
Though the last year’s flood was a major setback for rice production in the country, the already laid down framework was able to assist the government and farmers to produce enough rice.
Speaking on the increasing import duty for starch, Suleiman expressed hope that the step taken last year by the government through the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP), if fully implemented, will boost cassava production in the country and revive cassava starch industries across the country.
He said, “Currently, imported starch is sold for about N140,000 to N150,000 per ton, while the locally processed starch is sold for about N180,000 to N190,000 per ton.
“The reason for the high price of locally produced starch is because of some infrastructure deficit, like access road, water supply, power supply and so many others.”
So, before these infrastructures could be fixed, it is important that the government increase the import duty of imported starch to about 60 per cent, which would enforce its price to about N200,/000 per ton, with this the locally//3 processed starch can compete favourably.
“There are other economic approaches for agriculture to strive, but as for me, if these ones are taken care of, the economy will boom.”
Seeking urgent solutions to overcome challenges in the tomato sector, Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria (TOGAN) also urged the federal government to establish cottage processing plants in tomato producing areas.
The Secretary-General of TOGAN, Alhaji Sani Danladi-Yadakwari, who made the disclosure recently in Kano, stated that building plants in areas where tomatoes are being produced in large commercial quantity would assist to check seasonal glut.
According to him “There is a need for the Federal Government to build cottage processing plants in states to check seasonal glut.”
“These plants can be sited at Bunkure, Kura, Bagwai and Garun Malam local government areas of Kano State and other states like Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa and Plateau.
Yadakwari added that the processed tomatoes would be useful for the Nigerian Government’s school feeding programme across the country.
For its parts, the Maize Farmers Association of Nigeria (MAAN), projected an increase with the possibility of attaining the target of producing 25 million metric tonnes of maize at the end of the 2019 dry and rainy planting seasons for local consumption.
The President, MAAN, Bello Abubakar, who gave the estimation said the target is also to help Nigeria fight maize importation.
“Presently, MAAN has already provided planter, threshers, and harvesters. Our farmers will be given all these implements and they will be educated on how they are going to use it,” he said.
He added that the association is working closely with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Central Bank of Nigeria so as to empower farmers.
Experts are optimistic that although the year may witness change of goverment at the federal and state levels because of the elections, if the policies put in place by current administration are dutifully implemented, the agriculture sector will regain its lost glory.
Speaking on the fight against Army worm which attack crops, Abubakar said, “there is a plan on ground to fight it, because there is taskforce committee on ground which was inaugurated by the minister of Agriculture in 2017, and I am one of the members of the committee.
“The committee has started working on it already, and we have already taken serious action on Army Worm this year. And all the farmers know the problem of army worm has drastically come down. By next year, we have so many organisations we are collaborating with so that we will come to the end of it in Nigeria.
Economists recall that agriculture remained the mainstay of the country’s economy before the discovery of oil in Nigeria, though the discovery of oil affected agriculture so much that government played down agricultural activities to the detriment of the nation’s economy.
Despite 2019 being an electioneering year, it is expected that President Buhari-led administration will continue to give a boost to the agriculture sector by working with technocrats and other researchers in the various agricultural research institute. Of course, there are so many technical aspects which they are going to educate and sensitise farmers in a modern way of agriculture, especially in terms of mechanisation.
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