BusinessDay

Five challenges that will impact Nigeria’s 2022 agric output

Nigeria’s agricultural performance in 2022 will be determined by five key issues that have continued to impact farmers’ productivity and the sector’s contribution to economic growth.

BusinessDay’s Agribusiness section is taking a look at these issues that would shape Nigeria’s agricultural activities in 2022.

Worsening insecurity

Apart from the impact of Boko Haram in the North-East, which 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 the spread and escalating insecurity issues across the country.

The country’s agricultural activities were greatly impacted as farmers in Africa’s most populous country had to abandon their farmlands owing to escalating issues of kidnapping, banditry, and terrorism in major crops-producing states.

Its food imports for the first nine months in 2021 surge to a six-year high as escalating issues of terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and herdsmen attack continue to take a heavy toll on farming activities.

A total of N2.1 trillion food products were imported into the country from January through September in 2021, indicating a 75percent rise when compared to N1.2 trillion in the corresponding period of 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics trade report has shown.

“Imports are surging despite continuous government support and this is because of the high insecurity rate in the country,” AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer of X-Ray Consulting said.

The sector recorded its lowest growth rate since the second quarter in 2018 as it grew by 1.22 percent in the third quarter of 2021, a decrease of 0.17percent from the corresponding period of 2020, and a decrease of 0.08percent from the preceding quarter.

Climate Change

Climate change is one of the most disruptive challenges Nigeria is facing today.

Nigeria’s agricultural production is still largely dependent on rain-fed system, which renders it vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

The negative impacts are visible. Due to climate change, agricultural productivity is declining. Daily, extreme climatic events such as flooding, extreme heat, drought, pest attacks and land degradation have led to low crop yields.

Hence, the effects of climate change on food production, availability and security are devastating on Africa’s most populous country.

As a result, it has continued to impact negatively on agricultural activities, making it mandatory for farmers to be trained to become more resilient to the impact of climate change.

NiMET, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency is yet to give its seasonal weather forecast for 2021.

Experts who spoke with BusinessDay have predicted that climate change will play a key role in farmers’ 2022 output.

The experts say that extreme weather conditions are likely to affect not only the outcome of 2021 farming seasons but also the government’s plans to stop food importation which has been valued at over N1 trillion annually or at least reduce it to the barest minimum.

The extreme weather condition does not only affect crop production, but also livestock and fish production.

“Climate change has become evident daily in our lives and the impact has been massive on the agricultural sector,” said Desmond Majekodunmi, an environmentalist.

“The weather conditions will affect the quality of crops and the pricing.”

Globally, record-breaking heat and rainfall, devastating wildfires and debilitating drought were among extreme weather events that impacted several countries across the globe in 2021.

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the past seven years are on track to be the seven warmest on record.

A cooling La Niña event at the start and close of 2021 had a short-lived and minor effect on global temperatures but did not reverse the long-term warming trend as a result of record greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities.

Agro finance

Nigeria’s expectation from its agricultural sector may never crystallise if banks remain unwilling to lend to the sector.

Lack of access to adequate financing by farmers and other actors in the sector has remained a major impediment that prevents investments in basic farm inputs needed to raise productivity and sustain growth of the non-oil sector.

As a result, yields have failed to increase significantly, leading to pervasive hunger and poverty.

Similarly, agro entrepreneurs seeking to build businesses that could boost food production have continued to remain at a subsistence level in the country.

Nigeria’s agricultural fundamentals are robust and include an estimated 84 million hectares of arable land, out of which only 40 percent is cultivated and only 10 percent of the 40 percent is cultivated optimally.

But with adequate financing, the country can put its 84 million hectares of arable land to productive use, experts say.

Inputs

Prices of key inputs such as seeds, herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers and agro machinery will be the determinants of food prices in 2022.

Also, access to an adequate, secured and timely supply of quality seeds is a major hurdle in the nation’s quest to return to its heydays with agriculture.

Poor seeds have been identified as the major challenge facing farmers’ cultivation of crops efforts and it reduces their yield per hectare.

Despite efforts of successive governments to give farmers access to improved seeds, farmers are still unable to access good and quality seedlings easily when the need arises.

Nigeria’s failure to invest in the seed industry has created a yawning seed gap estimated at N525 billion, leaving farmers’ to low-quality inputs that portend danger to crop production and the country’s food-sufficiency target.

“Most of the seeds in the market today are imported and this is because we do not produce enough seeds,” Abiodun Olorundenro, a farmer told BusinessDay.

“The research institutes that are mandated to produce improved varieties of seeds are not doing anything.”

Despite the growth recorded in the numbers of seed companies in Nigeria, investments in the subsector is still low, as farmers still find it difficult to easily access improved seeds and seedlings to cultivate.

The total national seed requirements for eight major crops, including maize and rice, in Africa’s most populous country, stood at 388,690.64 metric tons (MT) in 2015, while the quantity available was 126,173 MT, leaving a yawning gap of 262,518 MT.

Read also: Food security: Group wants 10% allocation to agric sector

Experts in the agricultural sector say that government needs to prevent the supply-availability gap from widening further to prevent creating a fertile ground for the proliferation of unregistered and incompetent operators who flood the market with fake or poor quality seeds.

They explained that legal backing from the National Assembly would empower the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) to carry out its statutory mandate of regulation and supervision of seeds more effectively and seamlessly.

To bridge the gaps, experts have called for collaborations between the government and the private sector to drive investments in seed production in the country.

The experts also urged the government to create an enabling environment that will spur investments in seed production while enforcing stronger regulations to protect local investments.

Framers seek hybrid seeds owing to their productivity advantage, but most of them are imported, leading to a high cost of production of farm produce and high prices of food items in the country.

Poor research funding

Agricultural research institutes operating in the country are proving to be the weak link in Nigeria’s quest to boost food production and make exponential gains by way of earnings, employment and other spin-offs.

The institutes which are mandated to develop technologies and practices to improve farmers’ yields per hectare and ensure food security in Africa’s most populous country have failed to improve farm output.

Stakeholders attribute the inability of agric research institutes to reach their potentials owing to poor funding and total neglect of the institutions by the government.

They stated that there is a need for the government to address this issue if it wants agriculture to play a leading role in the diversification process.

“Less than 5 percent of the yearly budgetary allocation for agric research institutes goes into core research, while 70 percent goes into salaries and emoluments, with the remaining going into procurements, renovation and overheads,” Baba Yusuf Abubakar, professor of Animal Science, Federal University of Abuja told BusinessDay in a telephone interview.

“We cannot conduct effective research which such stipends. Research plays a pivotal role in transforming the agricultural sector and that is why we must take it very seriously,” Abubakar said.

Data obtained from the budgetary allocation to the agricultural ministry shows that the research institutions get an average of N19.6 billion yearly in the last three years.

This means that the country cumulatively spent N59 billion on research institutes in the last three years without commensurate results.

Data obtained from the budgetary allocation to the agricultural ministry shows that the research institutions got an average of N28 billion ($70 million) yearly in the last four years.

Nigeria’s annual spend on its agric research institutes compares with India’s $2 billion, Brazil’s $1 billion and China’s $700million, BusinessDay findings shows.

Despite the country’s large size of agriculture with other African nations, Nigeria lags behind its peers in the sector in terms of research funding.

A 2015 ActionAid report shows that Nigeria only invests $0.42 into agric research for every $100 of agric output, as compared to $0.94 and $1.40 in Ghana and Uganda respectively.

Nigeria has the highest agricultural research system in Africa though, in terms of investments and number of researchers, with over 80 government and high education institutes and over 2,000 researchers engaged in research. However, official fraud limits funds from reaching their points of critical need.

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