The Nigeria agricultural sector has recorded its lowest growth rate of 2.12 percent in 2018 since 2010, an indication that the sector is still largely limited by lingering issues, data from the country’s GDP report states.
On a year on year basis, growth in the sector declined by 1.77 percentage points from 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 2.5 percent in same quarter in 2018.
On a month on month basis, the sector grew marginally by 0.55 percent from 1.9 percent in the third quarter to 2.46 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Despite the potential of the agricultural sector to change the fortunes of the Nigerian economy, with attendant exponential gains by way of earnings, employment and other spin-offs, the country is yet to boost farmers’ productivity.
Over the years, government has mouthed support for agriculture, saying it is serious with making the sector one of the largest employers of labour and a major foreign exchange earner.
But this is yet to go beyond the talking stage as the sector is still largely limited by fundamental issues.
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.
“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 into the sector through entrepreneurship are diverting into other sectors, owing to the high failure rate caused by some underlying problems in the country’s agricultural sector.
In the last three and a half years, the Buhari- led government had devoted a lot of energy at deepening agriculture with initiatives like the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) without addressing fundamental issues of mechanisation, irrigation, seeds, extension services, insurance, research and development, among others.
Similarly, critical infrastructure to aid growth for the agricultural sector is lacking. 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 impacts 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 motorable roads to aid access to the market.
Also, some players who spoke to BusinessDay attributed the low growth to the combined issue of farmers-herder crisis and climate change.
“When the farmers-herdsmen issue started, people underestimated the impact and I think that now, it is becoming clear to people that agriculture is a major source of development and what you are seeing now is slower growth,” Ibrahim Tajudeen, Head of Research, Chapel Hill Denham, said in a telephone interview with BusinessDay.
“On the other hand all the agriculture polices by the government is going to take time before they will begin to bear fruit or have an impact. And the Boko Haram issue played a role to the slower growth,” Tajudeen further added.
Emmanuel Ijewere, vice president of the Nigerian AgriBusiness Group (NABG) advised that the government that comes in after the elections must look at agriculture as the only source where the GDP relates and directly impacts on employment provision and poverty reduction.
Josephine Okojie and Bunmi Bailey