BusinessDay

Why Nigeria can’t produce enough food despite billions from FG

Farmers and manufacturers have given explicit reasons why Nigeria cannot feed its 200 million people despite an array of government interventions running into billions of naira in the last two decades.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has pumped over N190 billion into the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme to ramp up production of crops from rice to cassava. Previous administrations have also spent billions in various agricultural transformation schemes, but food inflation is still high and production low, as Nigeria is not self-sufficient in almost all the crops and exports little food to earn foreign exchange.

“In order for you to have food in the right price and quality, you must have the right infrastructure,” Paul Gbededo, CEO, Flour Mills of Nigeria, told BusinessDay on the sidelines of the 25th National Economic Summit in Abuja on Tuesday.

“Power infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges in the food value chain, and it is increasing the cost of food. Road and rail infrastructures are important because we need route to market. If your roads are bad, and there is no rail infrastructure, then your turnaround time with your logistics will be higher,” he said.

Nigeria needs to feed 200 million mouths, which will grow to 410 million by 2050. Much of the production is subsistence and only little technology is employed in the industry dominated by rural farmers. Post-harvest losses are between 20 and 40 percent in many crops, according to experts.

“Do you know how much banana, plantain and other crops that get rotten during their seasons? In Philippines, they dry mangoes and send to China, and China buys everything, but what do we do here?” said Oyetunde Solaja, managing director, Crestar Group.

“First, we need to have enough data that show what kind of products we have, the available markets, as well as the linkages between the farm and the markets,” he said.

Nigeria’s food inflation is high at 13.17 percent in August 2019, with rice prices rising on border closure, despite being the highest beneficiary of CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
Data from the Ministry of Agriculture 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 tons 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 8 million 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 6 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.8 million MT.
Nigeria produces 400,000 MT of wheat annually but with a demand of 4 million MT, which leaves a gap of 3.6 million 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.

Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli, founder, Leap Africa and managing director of AACE Foods, said one important step is to have a platform to link everyone in the value chain together by providing the right kind of training and support.

Nwuneli said she has already founded an online platform for millions of entrepreneurs who will transform this sector.

Muda Yusuf, director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), suggested the need for reduction of production cost to encourage firms to export.

But he said trade must be facilitated by agencies like the Customs, the CBN, Finance Ministry and other relevant agencies.

“We should use technology to make things easy. Scanners have not worked for three years and even if you have 1,000 containers, they have to be inspected manually,” he said.

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.

“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 recently.

He suggested a deliberate move to shift farmers from small-scale subsistence agriculture to more commercial agriculture.

 

ODINAKA ANUDU & HARRISON EDEH, Abuja

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