Inadequate funding in Nigerian agric sector fuelling food insecurity – Experts

The lack of adequate funding for the Nigerian agricultural sector is a major threat to the nation’s food security, experts have said.

The experts worry that despite over 70 million hectares of arable land area, according to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization, Nigeria has remained a major importer of food.

BusinessDay’s study of the budgetary allocation showed that from 2017 to 2022, the amount allocated to the agriculture sector has remained below 2 percent of the total national budget.

For example, in 2017, N92 billion was allocated to the agric sector out of a budget of N7.29 trillion, representing 1.70 percent of the budget. In 2018, N53.8 billion (2 percent) was allocated to it out of a N9.12 trillion budget.

Out of the N8.92 trillion budget in 2019, the sector got N57.67 billion, which is 1.56 percent of the budget. In 2021, the sector was allocated N59.8 billion (1.37 percent) out of a budget of N13.08 trillion. In 2022, of the N17.1 trillion planned expenditure, the sector got N291.5 billion, representing 1.8 percent of the total budget.

Analysing the funding of the sector, Action Aid Nigeria said given that the agricultural sector is adjudged as the sector with the potential to transform the economy and employ the teeming youths, adequate funding must be prioritised for it in the national budget.

Read also: Nigerians spend most on food, transportation

It said: “Out of the 20.5 trillion budget proposal for 2023, the agricultural sector’s allocation is 228.4 billion (1.11 percent), which is rather low in terms of its proportion to the entire budget.

“In the last seven years or more, the budget for the agricultural sector has not exceeded 2 percent of the total budget.”

It said empirical evidence has shown that the greater the resources committed to a sector, the greater the output in terms of social benefit to the society.

The organisation said: “The trend shows a precarious allocation pattern with no commitment to gradually increase the allocation is in line with the expected demand from the sector.

“However, with the commitment of the government as expressed in the President’s latest budget speech, there are potential opportunities to increase agricultural productivity through increased budgeting which can still be realized when the National Assembly reviews the proposals.”

Adamu Bashir, a lecturer at the Institute for Agricultural Research, Zaria, told BusinessDay that the poor budgetary allocation simply shows that Nigeria is still not ready to harness the potential of the sector, which is capable of promoting inclusive economic growth.

“Looking at the government’s funding of the sector, it shows that the government still does not believe in the potential of the sector,” he said.

Nigeria was part of the 2003 Maputo and 2014 Malabo declarations, and with these commitments, the government is expected to spend a minimum of 10 percent of its annual budget on agriculture.

“But what we see in Nigeria is far from what is expected,” Bashir added. “Our farmers and everyone involved in the agriculture value chain are doing so much; if only the government could be more committed to the activities of the sector, we would have gone far in terms of food production for both consumption and export.”

For Kabiru Fara, president of Nigerian Agro Input Dealers Association, the sector is grossly underfunded and better investment in agriculture would help Nigeria earn more foreign exchange.

Fara is worried that while the budgetary allocation to the sector has remained small over the years, other government intervention funds have not been channelled rightly.

He said the Bank of Agriculture has not lived up to expectations. The bank, according to him, should be a channel for intervention funds, which will ensure funds make the necessary impact on farmers.

He said: “While we clamour for increased budget allocation to the sector, other monies coming to the sector must be channelled rightly. The Bank of Agriculture must be strengthened to perform adequately.

“If we had used the amount of money spent on Anchor Borrower’s Programme to import rice into this country, there will be rice in every household for free, but we can’t see the rice. We don’t know what happened; the paddy is nowhere to be found. This is why interventions must be channelled rightly.

He stressed the need for a deliberate effort to fund agriculture at all levels of government.

“There should be a certain amount set aside to fund agriculture in all states and local governments. This way we will see the potential of the sector,” he said.