Nigeria’s agriculture after 57 years
by Josephine Okojie
October 4, 2017 | 12:50 am| | | Start Conversation
Since the collapse of global oil prices at the international market which plunged the Nigerian economy into a 25 year low in 2016, there has been a renewed focus on the agricultural sector as the country attempts to diversify its economy away from oil.
Agriculture which was neglected became an option for diversification owing to its vast potentials that can drive a more sustainable economic growth in Africa’s most populous nation in terms of job creation and revenue diversification.
As a result, the government devoted a lot of energy at deepening agriculture with initiatives such as the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), placing ban on importation of some agro commodities and setting a goals for the attainment of self-sufficiency in major crop production.
Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development while speaking at the inauguration of the technical working group for the country’s Agricultural Roadmap in 2016, emphasized that the decline in global oil prices had made it imperative for the country to diversify the economy, with agriculture as a major option.
“We have to diversify and that diversification holds a lot of promise through agriculture,” Ogbeh said during the inauguration.
So far, the government has showed its commitment to the sector by increasing the budgetary allocation to the sector by 60.7 percent. The government is spending N123.4 billion on the sector in the 2017 financial year; with capital projects accounting for N91.6 billion while recurrent expenditure will gulp N31.8billion.
Due to the late passage of the 2017 budget, not enough has been expended at pushing the sector in the past few months and not much by way of innovation has come to the sector, especially from the government.
Also, the government has failed to address some of the fundamental problems that are inherent in its quest for diversification. Some of these issues are;
One of the greatest problems confronting rural farmers and communities in Nigeria is the absence of critical infrastructure such as ‘motorable’ roads.
Nigeria continues to suffer low levels of agricultural productivity due to infrastructural deficit across the country. Due to the deplorable state of roads, farmers have to grow only what they can eat or the extra they can carry on their heads to nearby markets.
Most times, the surplus gets rotten in storage in the villages or during transit as a result of many hours or days spent in transporting the foodstuffs to where they are needed due to bad roads.
Meanwhile, urban dwellers have to spend very large percentage of their income to buy food. This is because the food that gets to the towns and cities are far more expensive than what the poor struggling farmers would have sold them.
The high prices of these commodities are blamed on the middlemen but they are also quick to point out that they incur huge costs transporting the food as a result of bad roads.
“The roads are bad; it takes me two to three days to transport my yam produce from Benue (located in middle belt, of Nigeria) to Lagos (located in Southwest). I lost more than 300 tubers of yam on my last trip to Mile Twelve market in Lagos because the trailer got spoilt on the road and my yam produce was stolen since the trailer slept on the road for a night,” according to Godwin Apak a yam farmer in Benue state.
“There are times our yams get spoilt on the road; the sun will burn part of it even before we get to Lagos. This usually makes me sell cheaper than I was supposed to sell. If the roads were better, the goods will get to the market on time for me to sell without it getting spoilt” Apak said.
Apart from the impact of Boko Haram in the North-East, that has displaced thousands of agrarian communities, farming activities have also come under threat in the middle belt region and other regions in Nigeria due to conflicts between farmers and herdsmen.
The recent attacks by herdsmen in Benue, Enugu, Bayelsa, Ekiti and Adamawa among others have impeded agricultural output in the affected states and market development.
“The crisis has implication for the agricultural sector and employment generation. It is a major risk to the growth of the sector,” said Muda Yusuf, director general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“This is also a threat to raw materials for industries. The agric sector provides the raw materials that feed on industries especially the food and beverage industries. This conflict is happening in a period of FX shortage,” said Yusuf.
Rising cost of farm inputs
Input prices ranging from improved seeds, fertilizers and poultry feeds are high as a result of dollar crisis in the last 18 months; debts owed fertilizer suppliers and shortage of quality seeds.
“We are still not producing enough to start affecting food prices. It will take a while to grow the capacity we need to bring down prices. We need to improve our number of hectares, start farming all-year round before our food prices can be at par with imported varieties or even cheaper. We also need to increase our investments in the agricultural sector,” Sani Dangote, president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) and vice president, Dangote Industries Limited, told BusinessDay.
Tomato price has doubled as a result of a pest infestation called Tuta Absoluta, which keeps recurring as a result of shortage of improved seeds and lack of preventive measures.
Bananas and plantains are currently scarce and their prices high due to the inability of Nigerian farmers to farm them all—year round.
Though there is egg glut in some parts of Nigeria as a result of too many people going into poultry production, the high prices of starter and grower feeds as well as layer’s mash (over N3400 per bag) mean many farmers may abandon the business in the next season except there is a government intervention, market watchers say.
Nigeria’s population is rising rapidly but food production is not moving in the same trajectory, sparking fears of food insecurity in Africa’s most populous country.
“We are not producing enough currently because farmers are still farming using old farming techniques and our yield per hectare is still very low when compared with other nations of the world,” said Abiodun Olorundenro, chief executive officer, Green Vine Farms.
“Our population is growing very fast and we are yet to increase our productivity. This is even making the few available more expensive for consumers and that is the recent rise in food prices across the country,” Olorundenro said.
Nigeria is populated by 182 million people who must be fed with staple foods ranging from yams, rice, cassava to beans, bananas and tomatoes.
However, there is still much demand-supply gap in most of the staple foods, even as the population growth rate stands at 2.6 percent per annum. The country’s population is projected to surpass the 300 million people mark by 2050, according to The World Population Prospects 2017.
Latest data from Agriculture Ministry show that Nigeria is the largest producer of yam with 40 million metric tons per annum but yam demand in the country is 60 million metric tonnes per annum (MT), leaving a gap of 20 million MT.
Nigeria produces 42 million MT of cassava but has a demand of 53.8 million MT of the crop, leaving a gap of 11.8 million MT.
National supply for Irish potato is put at 900,000 MT per annum but with a demand of 8million MT and a gap of 7.1 million MT.
Similarly, local production of sweet potato is estimated at 1.2 million MT, while demand is 6million MT, leaving a gap of 4.8 million MT.
More so, Nigeria produces 400,000 MT of wheat annually but with a demand of 4 million MT, which leaves a gap of 3.6million MT.
Nigeria’s ginger production is 310,000 MT but demand is 650,000 MT, leaving a gap of 340,000 MT.
Nigeria’s rice production has risen to 5.3 million MT but demand is still 7.2 million MT, leaving a gap of 1.9 million MT.
Maize production in the country is put at 10.5 million MT but demand is 15 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.5 million mt.
Local Soybean production is 750,000 MT but domestic demand is 2 million MT, meaning there is a gap of 1.3 million MT.
Acha production is 78,000 MT but with local demand reaching 187,000 MT, there is a gap of 109,000 MT. Sesame production is 200,000 MT but demand is 600,000, leaving a gap of 400,000 MT.
Local shea nut production is 200,000 MT but demand is 1.4 million MT, implying there is a gap of 1.2 million MT. Castor production is 014,000 MT. However, demand is 510,000, leaving a gap of 496,000 MT.
Nigeria produces 2.5 million metric tonnes of tomato but citizens need 6 million MT of it to survive, leaving a gap of 3.5 million MT.
Sorghum production in the country is 11 million MT while demand is 12.5 million MT, showing a gap of 1.5 million MT.
For agriculture to effectively diversify the Nigerian economy from oil, the government must address the fundamental issues hindering productivity, experts say.
Experts noted that the country must increase its mechanisation scale to meet the ever-increasing population needed to be fed before the country can talk about earning foreign exchange through the sector.
Rotimi Fashola, senior partner, OIT Fash Consults, told BusinessDay that agriculture can only diversify the economy when there is higher productivity and investments.
“Until there is aggressive increase in production, we would not see the effect yet. This will require us to do a lot more in terms of increasing productivity per unit area and increasing our land areas. We must increase our yield per hectare, which means we must use more fertilisers than we are now. It means we must increase our tractorisation, it means we must increase our water management system and introduce more irrigation,” Fashola said.
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