• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Agric sector on the rebound

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 With the right personnel, Nigeria can reach the zenith of its aspiration in all sectors of the economy. Our optimism stems from the salient revolution currently going on in the agricultural sector.

Before now, the sector, which contributes about 40 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), like most other sectors, was largely non-functional. Over the years, billions of naira allocated to the sector were either stolen or misappropriated. The end product was that Nigeria continued to rely on other nations for things as common as fruits which could be grown here.

For many years, a cartel predated on the country, feeding fat on fertiliser racketeering. Poor farmers who needed the product to enhance their yields were denied of it, and the episode of hoarding to create artificial scarcity and consequent price hike made the product unaffordable to many farmers across the country.

In the last two years, however, a remarkable improvement has been recorded in the mode of fertiliser distribution in the country. Added to that, farmers are now being given seedlings by government, and banks are also advancing loans to them.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has begun the implementation of the Nigerian Incentive-based Risk Sharing for Agriculture (NIRSAL) special project which was dormant for many years.

A recent report had it that bank lending to the agric sector increased to 300 percent in four years, from about N75 billion in 2008 to N300 billion. As at November 2012, the agric sector reportedly attracted $8 billion Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) within a period of one year.

“We are now being pursued by banks offering loans to us because the issue of inadequate market for cassava, which they gave as the reason for denying us loans in the past, has been addressed,” Segun Adewunmi, president, National Cassava Growers Association, said.

For the very first time, the Federal Government is giving a serious thought to the self-sufficiency drive in rice production. This project is being pursued with all the seriousness it deserves.

It is noteworthy that from November 2012, farmers in the leading rice producing states of Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Niger and Kogi were empowered to go into dry season paddy production. Each received free seeds, bags of 15-15-15 NPK and one bag of Urea. Some were also assisted with water pumps to bring water to the fields. This initiative has since been applauded. 

“This is the first time ever that the Federal Government will support dry season agriculture,” said Munir Baba Dan, deputy chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Agric. “This minister has radically changed the face of agriculture. The results are not on paper, they are visible for all to see. Farmers are coming out in large numbers in response to his policy initiatives. With the approach of the Federal Government working so closely with states and local governments, Nigeria will soon become self-sufficient in rice production.”

The projection is that by 2015, Nigeria will have achieved self-sufficiency in rice production. Not only that this will ensure availability of rice, the nutritional value will also be realised since the shelf life of the produce will be reduced. Nigerians will no longer be eating mere chaff in the name of food. 

Nigeria, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, will save N356 billion annually, which is being spent on rice imports. About 1.2 million jobs are also in the offing.