The agriculture sector is important for job creation, food provision and security as well as employment generation. It is also a major source of foreign exchange.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the sector grew by 18.58 percent year-on-year in nominal terms in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2018, showing an increase of 8.45 percent points from the same quarter of 2017, and 0.26 percent points increase from the third quarter of 2018.
Agriculture contributed 23.08 percent to nominal GDP in Q4 of 2018 , which is higher than its contribution in Q4 of 2017
(21.93 percent) but lower than it was in Q3 2018 (25.52 percent ). On an annual basis, the sector contributed 21.42 percent to nominal GDP in 2018.
Agriculture sector contribution to real GDP in 2018 was recorded at 25.13 percent, up from 25.08 percent in 2017.
Despite these numbers and the potential of the agricultural sector to change the fortunes of the Nigerian economy, the sector is still plagued with a number of issues.
Over the years, government has mouthed support for agriculture, saying it is serious with making agriculture one of the largest employers of labour and foreign exchange earners.
But this is yet to go beyond the talking stage as the sector is still largely limited by lingering issues.
The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has made considerable progress,
without addressing fundamental issues of mechanisation, irrigation, seeds, extension service, insurance, research and development, among others.
As a result, yields have continued to remain low and progress made initially is now on a downward trajectory. This is evident in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report.
Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) GDP report shows that growth in the sector has been on the decline since first quarter 2017, with marginal growth recorded only in the fourth quarter of the same year.
The GDP report shows that growth in the sector contracted from 3.06 percent in q3 2017 to 1.91 percent in q3 2018 year on year.
“We have increased our crop production of various commodities but the government has still not done anything in addressing fundamental issues. We still do not have sufficient seeds and seedlings, nothing in place to increase mechanisation,” said Abiodun Oyelekan, chief executive officer, Farm Fresh Agric Ventures.
“The only thing the government has done is shifting attention to the agricultural sector. People now want to invest in the sector than before and this is why there is increase in production,” Oyelekan added.
Also, lots of youths that invested in the sector through entrepreneurship are diverting into other sector owing to the high failure rate caused by some underlying problems in the country’s agricultural sector.
Nigeria still operates the land use act of 1978, which vested the ownership of land to the governor of a state or the president in the case of the Federal Capital Territory.
AfricaFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer, X-Ray Consulting Limited, said that people take the issue of land ownership very serious and see it as the next thing after life.
Mogaji noted that with appropriate legislation and synergy with stakeholder and town union leaders it will be easy to acquire land for agricultural purposes.
“We need land and infrastructural reforms to ensure food security especially in a country like Nigeria where our population is growing very fast,” Akin Laoye, executive director, FTN Cocoa Processors PLC told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview.
“Every nation has land kept for housing, agriculture and industries in urban areas. In Nigeria, these things are there but it is never followed because we lack institutions to drive these policies,” Laoye said.
He stated that lands in urban areas are taken over by housing estates which are not good for the sector as most youths wants to who are into agriculture wants to remain in the cities or nearby locations.
Similarly, critical infrastructure to aid growth for the agricultural sector is lacking. Indubitably, one of the greatest problems confronting rural farmers and communities in Nigeria is the absence of critical infrastructure such as ‘motorable’ roads.
Farmers continue to suffer low levels of agricultural productivity due to infrastructural deficit across the country, which reduces their profit and impact their capacity to expand.
“The problem with agriculture is infrastructure. It is not that we do not grow enough but the infrastructure to move, store and process what is harvested are not there,” said Aboidun Olorundenro, operations manager, Aquashoots Nigeria.
“Without critical infrastructure, agriculture will continue to suffer and our diversification through the sector would only be a dream,” Olorundenro said.
He recommended the development of linkages between farmers and the market, stating that youths can only find agric attractive when such linkages are provided.
Stakeholders say developing agriculture requires the rehabilitation of dams and irrigation facilities to boost farmers’ productivity and also motor-able roads to aid access to the market.
There is also a problem with the seeds. Some seeds that are locally available are substandard, leading to low yield. Experts say there is a need to fund research institutes more to enable them to come up with high-yielding seeds that can increase yield.
Odinaka Anudu & Josephine Okojie