• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Why Nigeria struggles to produce enough food for 200m people

Food market

Nigeria’s population is growing at 2.6 percent annually but its food production is not following the same pattern, sparking rising crop prices and fears of food insecurity among the majorly impoverished 200 million people.

Apart from rice, almost all the crops grown in Nigeria have remained stagnant at their 2014 levels, with little changes on their level of investments, technology and models.

   “The only two ways of doubling food production are through investment and science,” Scott Angle, director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the United States and former CEO of International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), said in Washington DC on Wednesday at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit’s international reporting tour.

“You will need to move from small-scale subsistence agriculture to more commercial agriculture,” he said, while addressing Nigeria and Africa’s food production model.

In 2019, only approximately N138 billion ($383 million) was allocated to agriculture in Nigeria’s budget, representing just 1.5 percent of the total budget and lower than N173 billion (480.5 million) the previous year. The 2019 figure represents N690 ($1.9) per Nigerian each year.

South Africa, a country almost four times less Nigeria’s population, allocated $2.097 billion (R30.7 billion) to agriculture and rural development, and another $1.26 billion (R18.4 billion) to land reforms. South Africa’s represents $59 per citizen.

Nigeria has seen investments in flour, poultry and rice, but key investments are still lacking in Nigeria’s flagship crops. Cocoa players complain that there have not been major private investments in the last six to seven years.

“Nigeria’s cocoa average yield per hectare is among the lowest in the world and this is due to old age of most cocoa plantations,” said Anna Muyiwa, plant biotechnologist, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CAN),

“We need to rehabilitate our old cocoa trees in all cocoa producing states. A completely rehabilitated cocoa plantation of proven clone will produce as much as 2.5 tons per hectare,” Muyiwa said, stressing the need to develop more hybrid varieties.

Cocoa is Nigeria’s flagship crop, accounting for over 20 percent of non-oil export value in the last eight years.

Nigeria’s research institutes complain of being under-funded, hampering their capacity to advance high-yield crops to increase low yield per hectare.

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.

Nigeria is 132nd out of the 188 countries worldwide measured by FAO / United Nations in terms of the number of tractors in the country. This is one reason why farming has been mainly subsistence, rather than commercial.

Angle of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the United States believes that this is the same pattern for many other African countries which makes doubling food production difficult amid rising population.

Nigeria’s food inflation is high at 11.4 percent in April, 2019, with tomato prices doubling. Data from Agriculture Ministry show that Nigeria is the largest producer of yam with 40 million metric tons per annum but yam demand in the country is 60 million metric tonnes per annum (MT), leaving a gap of 20 million MT.

 Nigeria produces 42 million MT of cassava but has a demand of 53.8 million MT of the crop, leaving a gap of 11.8 million MT.

National supply for Irish potato is put at 900,000 MT per annum but with a demand of 8million MT and a gap of 7.1 million MT.

Similarly, local production of sweet potato is estimated at 1.2 million MT, while demand is 6million MT, leaving a gap of 4.8 million MT.

More so, Nigeria produces 400,000 MT of wheat annually but with a demand of 4 million MT, which leaves a gap of 3.6million MT.

Maize production in the country is put at 10.5 million MT but demand is 15 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.5 million MT.

Nigeria has 200 million people, with 45 percent in extreme poverty. The population is expected to hit 402 million in 2050. A third of the world will come will come from Africa in 2050. The continent is also expected to produce food for the world but it is not yet ready.

For John Dearie, founder and president of the Center for American Entrepreneurship (CAE), what is needed is to create the right business environment to attract new businesses, in this case farmers, who will disrupt the status quo and create jobs.

 

ODINAKA ANUDU, Washington DC