By Chinyere Anyanwu, [email protected]
Nigeria has celebrated its 61st independence anniversary and there are combined emotions about the nation’s degree of improvement on all fronts, particularly in relation to its pure endowments and human capital.
An evaluation of the nation’s agriculture sector since independence reveals that there have been appreciable achievements however less than the desired degree. The sector, which holds the potential to steer the nation’s economic system out of the doldrums is but to adequately discover its footing owing to a number of challenges. It’s due to this fact been a potpourri of pains and gains.
Owing to the dwindling efficiency of the agriculture sector in the nation, successive administrations, each army and democratic, have formulated and applied varied insurance policies and initiatives aimed toward placing the sector again to its crucial place in the economic system.
Looking at the nation’s agriculture in segments, the interval earlier than the discovery of crude oil, and earlier than and instantly after independence was the sector’s superb season when it was the mainstay of the economic system. During this era, Nigeria boasted of money crops similar to rubber, cocoa, timber, palm produce, and groundnut, amongst others, which have been overseas change earners for the nation. It was equally self-sufficient in a number of meals crops together with cassava, maize, yam, cocoyam, wheat, and so on.
In the interval after the discovery of crude oil and after independence, Nigeria’s agriculture suffered setback owing to the neglect of the sector by authorities. The cultivation and upkeep of money and meals crops owing to plentiful money influx from oil have been uncared for. Nigeria went from being an export nation to an import-dependent nation, importing virtually every thing together with toothpick.
The interval following that is the interval of restoration marked by successive governments’ recognition of the sector’s significance to the financial survival and sustainability of the nation. They have, over the years, formulated and applied varied insurance policies and initiatives focused at resuscitating agriculture and repositioning it to occupy its delight of place.
There was the Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) programme of the Obasanjo-led army administration; the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP); the 2016-2020 Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) also referred to as the Green Alternative; the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme aimed toward subsidising fertiliser by 25 per cent; Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Funds (ACGSF); Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS), and Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), amongst others.
Other measures have been the restriction of foreign exchange for imports of sure meals gadgets, outright ban on importation of products that may be produced domestically, elimination of subsidy for the importation of 41 non-essential commodities and border closure in August 2019.
Through these efforts, Nigeria’s agriculture has recorded some achievements. Today, the nation is doing properly in rice manufacturing boasting of over 40 rice mills with manufacturing quantity working into a whole bunch of hundreds of thousands of tonnes yearly. Oil palm produce can also be receiving consideration from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and manufacturing of a number of different crops have acquired boosts from each authorities and the personal sector.
Further steps taken by authorities to reposition agriculture got here in the type of huge consciousness amongst youths to draw them into agriculture and agribusiness. This has given rise to the birthing of a crop of youths who’re investing closely in agriculture and giving the sector a contemporary breath of life. Export of agro merchandise, particularly nuts and spices, has additionally been expanded with so many personal sector buyers venturing into the enterprise.
Despite these strikes to convey agriculture again to its enviable place, a number of challenges have stored it struggling over the years. Major amongst these challenges has been the insincerity of implementing authorities in the implementation of the programmes meant for the resuscitation of the sector. Farmers have at all times insisted that funds and different inputs meant for his or her use not often get to them and the place they do, it’s normally after struggling via a number of bureaucratic bottlenecks.
The non-mechanisation of the nation’s agriculture has contributed in no small measure to conserving the sector stagnant over the years. Till date, guide labour nonetheless characterises Nigeria’s agricultural practices.
High rate of interest on funds meant for the sector is one other albatross militating towards its progress. According to stakeholders, business banks give about 29 per cent curiosity whereas authorities curiosity is 9 per cent however they insist that any rate of interest on agriculture mortgage that’s above 5 per cent is just not tenable.
The problem of post-harvest losses equally constitutes a setback to meals safety. Lack of processing gear wanted to course of extra farm produce into different merchandise has usually resulted in wastage of perishable produce thereby creating shortage throughout off season of such commodities.
Poor highway networks that make it troublesome to get farm produce to the market, particularly in rural farm communities, is one other problem confronting the sector.
The herders/farmers crises which have beset the nation in the final 4 to 5 years have set agriculture and the nation’s efforts to realize meals safety again an amazing deal. The areas often known as the nation’s meals baskets have been majorly hit by these crises which have seen farmers abandoning their farms and taking refuge in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
Speaking on Nigeria’s agriculture sector in the final 61 years, the Vice President of Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, sees the sector as having shiny prospects when the proper issues are put in place.
Ijewere mentioned, “before independence, immediately after independence and before the civil war, Nigeria was very good in agriculture and we were poised to be a major player in the field of agriculture in the world. After the war, and combined with the oil money that was coming in, the military went wild. That was when they made the stupid statement that money is not our problem but how to spend it. And everybody abandoned agriculture because it was too tedious, it was too much work. You can go to the big cities and get the oil money easily. That was the beginning of the downfall of agriculture.”
He said that, “successive governments, including the military ones, came up with several projects including Operation Feed the Nation (OFN), among others. All of them went to further finance the corruption that has already taken over the country. The farmer was discouraged, more people left the villages, went to the cities and left only old people in the villages who could not take advantage of the various agricultural advancements in the world.”
He, nonetheless, famous that, “as at now, I see nice prospects. I see a scenario the place the personal sector is getting extra acutely aware of the undeniable fact that agriculture is the way forward for Nigeria’s financial improvement. More educated folks at the moment are coming in. Government is starting to know this. Even the state governments who used to go to Abuja each month to gather cash at the moment are taking agriculture of their states much more severe since that cash is dwindling.
“All these things combined, it shows that going forward, agriculture has a brighter prospect. But in doing so, my prayer is this, and you may not like this prayer, may the price of oil continue to be low so that we can use those things that God gave us that will be more sustainable than oil. In any case, in the next five to 10 years, people are going to be in less need of crude oil in the world. So I think we have a great prospect now and I’m happy about it.”
Another stakeholder, Dr. Victor Iyama, President, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria, (FACAN), believes Nigeria has not finished too badly in its efforts to correctly place agriculture and guarantee meals safety.
According to him, “we have not done too badly but it could have been better. For a number of years, our concentration on oil has rubbed off on us and we are definitely not where we ought to be but from the look of things and the downturn in oil fortunes, we’ve taken up agriculture. We are not there yet but I know that if we continue with this tempo, we will be there in a very short while.”
Iyama insists that, “we have a lot of commodities, domestic and the ones we can trade internationally. On the domestic commodities, we are trying. On the ones we can trade internationally, there’s still a lot of gaps in our production capacity and we have to do a lot about that. How can we be producing 250,000 tonnes of cocoa when a country like Cote D’Ivoire is producing 2.2 million tonnes of cocoa? And we’re almost 10 times bigger than them.”
He lamented, nonetheless, that, “we are still doing more of promoting importation. We are talking about not seeing dollars, but nobody is talking about the obnoxious laws and policies of CBN concerning our export. There’s no way you can say you’re promoting export and you’re gagging exporters from having unfettered access to their funds. We are promoting importation and killing export. In this country today that we are looking for dollars, are we not supposed to be discouraging import? A country that has problem of inflow and dollar liquidity, what do you do? You restrict your importation to healthcare system and agricultural equipment. Any other person who wants dollar to do anything should go and source for it.”