• Saturday, July 13, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria ranks low on agric mechanisation scale

agric-mechanisation

For Nigeria to attain the level of food security, diversify its economy away from oil, and reduce dependency on food imports, it has to improve its level of mechanization in its agriculture, experts have said.

Available statistics shows that Nigeria is one of the least mechanised farming countries in the world with the country’s tractor density put at 0.27 hp/ hectare which is far below the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) recommended tractor density of 1.5 hp/ hectare.

“It is about time we must face up to the facts, if we as a nation are serious about producing the food we eat ourselves,” Richard Hargrave, managing director, Dizengoff Nigeria said in a statement made available to BusinessDay. “We have all the farmers we need as well, at around 12.3 million, making Nigeria 14th in the world, but,” says Hargrave, “we simply will not properly equip them.”

In Nigeria, a significantly higher proportion of farming area is still cultivated by hand tools. The international food policy research institute (IFPRI) reckons that Nigeria is still at the early stage of agricultural mechanization; even at that, it’s mechanization of power intensive operations has been slow.

“Mechanisation is a very critical issue because it helps eradicate poverty of rural farmers. But if farmers continue to farm using crude equipment’s their poverty can never be eradicated,”  said Sani Dangote, president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) and group vice president, Dangote Industries Limited in a recent interview with BusinessDay.

“Farmers need to farm using mechanisation and harvest their produced using mechanization which will increase production and profits,” he said.

When Nigeria was measured in 2003, 12 years ago, Nigeria had only 30,000 tractors, and at best we are only currently adding 1,000 new ones each year, not even enough to replace the aging, worn out, and broken down ones.

This means on a per capita basis, Nigeria lags at 132nd out of the 188 countries worldwide measured by FAO / United Nations in terms of the number of tractors in the country. Nigeria has fewer tractors than minnow countries like Serbia & Montenegro, with 400,000, Pakistan with 320,000, or Uzbekistan with 170,000 tractors.

Hargrave said “Iceland has many, many more tractors per hectare of cropland than any other nation in the world. They have 37.2 tractors per 1,000 people; we have 0.223! They have almost one tractor for each of their farmers. So that means tiny little Iceland, covered in glaciers and frozen earth, is actually 166 times more mechanised in their farming than Nigeria, the so called “giant of Africa.”

“The fact is that Nigeria has only one tractor for every 4,100 farmers is ridiculous. Each tractor is farming 1,013 hectares of arable land. We simply are yet to have anything like enough tractors necessary to work our fertile arable lands, and so truly produce enough food we need to survive,” He said.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Nigeria needs a minimum of 746, 666 tractors equipped with tillers and other support gadgetry to sufficiently mechanise agriculture going by best practices.

Mechanisation is very important if agriculture must play its leading role in the diversification of the economy away from oil, said Elesa Bitrus Yakubu, national president, Tractors Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria(TOOAN) in a telephone interview with BussinessDay.

Josephine Okojie