Nigeria needs to increase food productivity to contain growing population.
The country is 201 million people currently, making it most populous in Africa, and with 2.6 percent annual growth, it promises to surge further.
Food production is not growing at the same pace as yield per hectare remains low and production cost remains high.
“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), told BusinessDay recently in Washington DC, United States of America.
“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.
Nigeria has seen investments in flour, poultry and rice, but key investments are still lacking in Nigeria’s flagship crops, frustrating manufacturers who use them as inputs. 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,
“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.
Wheat is hugely imported by flour millers whereas cassava is not turned into starch locally owing to poor equipment.
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 May, 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.
Nigeria has 200 million people, with 50 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.