BY AGBO-PAUL AUGUSTINE, Abuja
With the country sitting on 34million hectares of arable land, the agricultural space in Nigeria is large enough to overrun the economic challenges retarding the development of the nation.
This was made known by an agricultural expert and group head, Commercial, Notore Chemical Industries Plc, Mr Tijjani St. James, in a keynote address at the Premium Times’ Agriculture Journalism Bootcamp held in Abuja.
He said with over 180m population in Nigeria, majority of which live on less than $1 per day, how to feed the fast growing population is a trouble for the leadership of the country.
With the dwindling oil revenues, the much needed revenue for capital and developmental projects required to stimulate economic growth and development has become a huge challenge to governments in the country.
St. James, said the agricultural space in Nigeria is the perfect solution to mitigating the economic challenges facing the nation.
“There are multiple million ways to leverage this huge land mass to the benefit of the country. For instance, if the federal and state governments were to craft a policy framework that dedicates, say 15% of the 34million hectares (i.e. 5.1m hectares) of arable land to exclusive rice production, we could see about 30million MT annual rice outputs. Sold at N10, 000 per 50kg bag this translates to 6 trillion naira revenue per annum, equivalent to Nigeria’s 2016 budget,” he said.
Adding further the agricultural expert said, “States and the federal government must purposefully create the enabling environments through legislation and policy decisions. We all saw what the FGN agricultural Growth Enhancement Support Scheme did to agricultural outputs from 2012 through 2014, and what the current government’s Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme (ABS) has done to rice outputs in Kebbi State in the last 2 farming seasons.
“The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) seeks to deliver NPK to farmers at N5, 500 per 50kg bag. However, due to logistical challenges, getting the PFI NPK at the recommended price hasn’t been feasible. Thus, while we commend the PFI and ABS projects, we urge the government to equally consider inputs and farm produce haulage challenges across the rural farming hubs.
He said Journalists have a significant role to play in the development of Nigeria’s agricultural sector through their reportage in many local languages and the use of diverse media platforms.
“What has long been lacking is the skill set for incisive journalistic coverage of the sector. Notore is fully convinced that this bootcamp will enhance the investigative and reporting skills of all of you gathered here to spur information dissemination and educate our farmers on farming best practices.
“Youth re-orientation towards agriculture and agri-business is another fundamental factor that I will urge the media to amplify. We must find a way to direct youth’s career choices to agricultural and allied businesses right from when they enlist into the tertiary institutions. The media can play significant roles in investigative journalism and feature articles on such agribusinesses from across the world.”
He said the role of the private sector in driving enhanced agricultural development cannot be overemphasised. “As a private Agricultural company, Notore has taken leadership in driving expansion of agricultural productivity since 2009,” St. James said.