Agric growth contracts to 0.90% in Q1 on naira crunch

Nigeria’s agricultural growth contracted by 0.90 percent in the first quarter of 2023, the first contraction under the Buhari administration, data from the National Bureau of Statistics shows.

The sector contracted by 0.90 percent in Q1’23 in real terms, less by 4.06 percent when compared to the 3.16 percent it recorded in the corresponding period in 2022, the report said.

NBS attributed the overall decline in the country’s economic growth to the adverse effects of the cash crunch experienced in the first quarter of 2023, and the agriculture sector amongst other sectors, has contributed to this data.

“The reduction in growth is attributed to the adverse effects of the cash crunch experienced during the quarter,” NBS said in the report.

In October 2022, the CBN introduced the naira redesigned policy to replace old N200, N500, and N1000 notes with new versions.

The policy was poorly managed by the apex bank and it led to cash shortages which impacted businesses negatively, especially agribusinesses owing to the short shelf life of fresh produces.

Read also: Nigeria’s manufacturing sector growth hits 3-yr low in Q1

As commercial banks apportioned the limited banknotes at their disposal in the first quarter of the year, farmers lamented gluts of different kinds as the period was characterised by buying cash at premium prices from POS operators, and retail consumers stuck to buying only necessities.

“The cash crunch coincided with poor network systems across banks and service providers. Sometimes we’d go to buy things for our business and be there for minutes without end, trying to make payment,” said Emmanuel Futughe, poultry manager, Tabai Farms, Abuja.

Farmers in different parts of the country were reported to have been in severe agony, whilst the cash shortages persisted, as they continued to count losses over the inability of off-takers and buyers to mobilise enough cash to buy from them.

The situation was worsened by the non-acceptance of transfers by some traders and service providers. Perishable foods, including plantain, vegetables, fruits, etc., were left to rot away, “and this Q1 data that shows a contraction in the sector’s growth is evidence that the hardship that farmers witnessed at the time, also took a toll on their results,” analysts say.

Today, whatever may have been the benefits of the Naira redesign policy have been cancelled out by the economic and social waste and gridlock it has created. We are still suffering from it, after the “almighty” presidential election has come and gone, Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the CBN, said.

The Supreme Court, on March 3, ruled that the old N200, N500, and N1,000 notes should remain legal tender till December 31, 2023. The CBN gave a directive on March 13, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Meanwhile, Nigeria’s agriculture has long been touted as the sector that can drive economic growth and development if adequately supported to grow food sustainably.

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, the sector’s 0.90 percent contraction in Q1 ’23 is less by 2.95 percent when compared to the preceding quarter which recorded a growth rate of 2.05 percent.