Naija Foodie Update

Naija Foodie Update (What Stakeholders Expect In Agriculture Sector)

What Stakeholders Expect In
Agriculture Sector
By Fabian Odum
IT is not in doubt that oil, as major
source of revenue, has failed the
nation following the global slump
in prices and increasing fracking
exploits in the UK and the rich
shale oil deposits in the US.
Nigeria’s clear option, which has
become a singsong, is
agriculture, and President Buhari
should plug into that economic
space to bring diversification
forcefully to the table.
As if the pressure on oil-
dependent world is not enough,
the recent (July 3) solar-powered
flight of the aircraft, Solar
Impulse 2, from Japan to Hawaii
in the US sent clear message that
the days of fossil fuel energy are
just numbered. Nigeria, more
than ever before need to get its
acts right in head-hunting who
becomes the next Minister of
Agriculture and this should not
be a job with which to settle
politicians, who helped win
elections.
If President Buhari truly wants to
diversify the economy from oil,
there are several areas of the
Agricultural Transformation
Agenda (ATA) that need be
sustained. Nigerians would
therefore be better served to see him appoint someone who will continue the ATA programms that have shown success.
The subsidised fertiliser and seed
distribution needs to be pursued
to keep expanding food
production in the interest of the
economy. This would require a
continuation of the programme
to buy and install rice and
cassava mills, to set up storage
and aggregation centres, and
establish the badly needed
market corporations. It is on
record that many private sector
investments in Kwara, Taraba,
Niger, Ogun and some other
states worth hundreds of
millions of naira have been made
in cassava alone. Nigeria cannot
afford to backtrack on laudable
projects that would bring income
to the rural poor and youths.
The call by Dr. Bukola Saraki, the
Senate President that corporate
bodies owing the nation about
N30bn in the rice waiver deal as
exposed by Adesina before he
left government should not be
handled with kid gloves by the
President. It is clear that some
foreign businessmen with long
presence in Nigeria pretend to
invest in Nigeria’s rice value
chain, but have the aim of
thwarting a good programme
are still here and lurking around
corridors of power, peddling
their influence.
Coordinator of the Nigerian
Agribusiness Group and CEO, Best
Foods, Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere
said the former Minister gave
agriculture a new meaning and
attracted entrepreneurs, who
now saw better potential to do
good business and diversify the
economy.
In the past three and half years,
the Organised Private Sector
(OPS) and even the informal
sector have made investments
that show the business side of
agriculture. This is driven by the
policy direction of the
Agricultural Transformation
Agenda (ATA) of the immediate
past administration.
The Economist of London
recently noted that Nigeria had
made very good strides in
Agriculture, and that though the
naira has fallen sharply against
the dollar, food inflation is still
under control, ‘a situation not
normal when the currency
weakens because Nigeria has
vastly expanded its own food
production over the past few
years.’ The magazine attributed
this to positives brought in by
the erstwhile minister in ‘Mr.
Jonathan’s government.’
Triton Aqua Africa Limited
Director of Production, Mr.
Yashpal Jain said the Iwo farm of
the company, which harvested
40 tons of catfish in March, was
part of the $65m planned for
investment in catfish and tilapia
production in the next five years.
Mr. Paul Gbededo, Group
Managing Director, Flour Mills of
Nigeria Plc and President,
Association of Food, Beverage
and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE)
said due to the policies put in
place in the last few years, many
have made investments based on
them.
The Nigerian Sugar Master Plan,
which makes provision for sugar
refineries to do backward
integration, has encouraged
multi-billion naira mills in some
parts of the country. In Niger
State, Flour Mills is constructing a
huge mill to be ready in 2016.
Gbededo said it means that if you
are a refiner of sugar, you should
cultivate sugarcane and produce
raw sugar, and this involves
huge investments.
Another is the Cassava Inclusion
policy to produce composite
flour for bread and
confectionaries. While FMN has
committed itself to massive
cassava plantation in Kwara
State, National President of
Nigeria Cassava Growers
Association (NCGA), Segun
Adewumi revealed the creation
of Cassava Development
Commission is a good step. The
Commission is to be managed
largely by members drawn from
the private sector, and that way
the bread will work.
Fresh investments in oil palm by
PZ Wilmar in Cross Rivers and
other states, resulting in
plantation towns is massive,
among others like Okomu Plc and
Presco Plc in Edo State is
commendable and reinforcing
good policies is important.
Figures from The National
Bureau of Statistics show that
national food production grew
by 21million metric tons between
2011 and 2014 and a
consequent reduction in food
imports. This was done through
the application of technologies
following investments by the OPS
and medium scale operators in
the sector.
A huge part of the success was
hinged on the establishment of
farmers’ database, recording
over 14.5million farmers
registered farmers, which were
beneficiaries of subsidised
inputs and services.
The past administration recorded
that 14.3million farmers
redeemed farm inputs between
2012 and 2014. By region, the
north-west recorded the highest
redemption, at 30 per cent of the
total. The north east, despite the
prevalence of insurgency,
followed at 22 per cent, while the
north central recorded 17 per
cent, south-south 12 per cent,
south-west 11 percent, and
south east 9 percent.
It also said an estimated
additional N778billion has gone
to rural farmers as a result of
increased productivity from the
use of improved seeds and
fertilizer to improve rural
economies largely driven by
farmers.
In 2011, Nigeria with a farmer
population exceeding 50 million
farmers produced and sold only
14,788MT seeds. But by 2014,
this had risen to 170,692MT, an
increase of 1,054 per cent
emanating from 134 seed
companies that do business in
the country. Figures that
emanate from the Federal
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development (FMARD) showed
that seed companies have grown
in number from 11 in 2010 to
134 to 2014, while $5billion new
investment has gone into the
fertilizer sector. ‘The seed and
fertilizer sector leveraged loans
worth N40billion from banks in
2014 alone who now see the
agricultural sector as an area of
worthy investment.’
Reports from the Bureau showed
that rice paddy production rose
from 5.3 million MT in 2011 to
seven million MT in 2014 and
could rise to 12 million by 2019,
should government decide to
keep implementing the
transformation plan. According
to the Bureau, Nigeria’s food
import bill fell from N3.19 trillion
in 2011 to N635billion in 2013; a
403 per cent reduction.
The growth of Nigeria’s
agriculture is expected to
increase. For that to happen, the
installation of rice mills, which
are expected to add another two
million MT of milling capacity by
2017, should be encouraged so
that Nigeria can end rice
importation. The projection that
Nigeria can easily reach another
32 million farming households by
2019, at a rate of eight million
farming household per year
should be pursued to logical end.
It is possible especially with the
former Minister within earshot
from the President.
President Buhari’s decision in the
choice of Adesina’s successor is
crucial and the continuation of
the reforms is critical to meeting
our food security goals as a
nation, with the attendant boost
in job creation and improvement
of the rural economy.
Stakeholders are looking forward
to agriculture continuing to play
a role as Nigeria’s economic
powerhouse.
With his victory at the recently
concluded election of the next
president of the African
Development Bank (AfDB) in
Abidjan, it would not be out of
place to expect President Buhari
to engage the advisory services of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, former Minister of Agriculture, who recieved his backing on the way to the AfDB job.

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