Agriculture, which is one of the key sectors government has given priority to drive Nigeria’s non-oil sector towards food productivity and security, holds enormous potential for investors this year. TAIWO HASSAN writes
Since independence in 1960, agriculture had been the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy, providing the largest chunk of foreign exchange inflow into the country. Moreover, it contributed about 63 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to official statistics from the National Bureau of Statistic (NBS).
The incomes then were derived from the export of major cash crops such as rubber, cocoa, palm oil, cashew nuts, groundnut and cotton, among others.
Notwithstanding the low prices that agricultural products suffered at that time, the sector remained resolute as it continually sustained the country’s economy. Indeed, the sector was the largest employer of labour in the country then.
However, on assuming office as the Head of State in 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari pledged to introduce diversification programme where agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors were identified to stabilise the ailing economy amid the fall in crude oil price at the international market.
Particularly, government set up the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to halt the decline of the economy.
After various agric sector policies by government, Nigerian agriculture became the toast of eminent industrialists, commercial farmers, foreign and local investors and agro-allied industries as they ventured into different aspects of farming.
In 2018, agriclture is expected to still continue to play a key role by effectively contributing to government’s effort at restructuring the economy away from dependence on oil. However, the areas of agriculture expected to witness investments include rice mills, fishery, cocoa, cashew, yam export, sesame seeds export and flour mills plants. Others are farm inputs acquisition, fertilizer production plants, palm oil export, poultry, sugar plant set up and tomato production establishment.
These areas have been identified as juicy because of their high return of investment for investors vying to trade in them.
Rice milling plants
There has been paradigm change in the country’s agriculture with the intensity in the production of local rice for Nigerians.
Already, the government has set ambitious targets of becoming self-sufficient in rice production this year and turning a net exporter by 2020.
No doubt, the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has opened up potential opportunities in the country’s sector.
With this programme, there has been massive production of local rice in large scale to stop importation of foreign rice both at land borders and ports.
However, the self-sufficiency programme in rice production has seen the springing up of rice mills plants in the country in line with the government’s diversification agenda to make agriculture the hub for investors.
Already, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote announced early last year that he was making a $1 billion investment in Nigeria’s rice production.
Other big players have also jumped in, including the Lagos-based conglomerate TGI, which opened a rice mill last August with a capacity of 120,000 tonnes; Olam Nigeria, part of Singapore-based Olam International, which plans to boost its existing rice output; Amarawa rice mill’s 288 metric tonnes rice per day capacity in Kano State; the multi-billion Naira Wacot Rice Mill in Argungu, Kebbi State and many others. So more investments in rice mills are expected from investors this year.
Floating of tomato plants
This is another juicy area that agric sector stakeholders have predicted would witness boom this year. This move may be attributed to the Federal Government’s plan to ban the importation of foreign tomato paste into the country and enhance the production of local tomato paste in circulation.
In order to justify its commitment, the Federal Government announced new policy on importation of tomato that would further stimulated the establishment of new and emerging processing plants as well as the resuscitation of some hitherto comatose tomato concentrating plants in the country.
The quest for this move is to reduce the country’s N6 billion currently spent annually in foreign exchange on tomato imports and also the average 150 metric tons annual imports on tomato paste.
Already, the private public partnership (PPP) committee set up by the Federal Government on the new tomato policy is yielding positive results, especially on the implementation of curbing imports of concentrated tomato into the country.
Besides, the revamping of the abandoned local tomato processing plants and the new ones that are springing up has been identified as catalyst towards achieving sustainable self-sufficiency in tomato production locally.
Stakeholders and government have admitted that influx of tomato paste into the country due to lack of regulatory policy in the sector brought about circulation of sub-standard tomato paste across the country.
Big players in tomato industry such as Dangote Tomato Processing Company Kano and Erico Foods Limited as well as Savannah tomato industries should expect more competition from new investors this year.
Floating of fertilizer plant
Recently, the Federal Government commenced the revival of some ailing blending fertilizer plants in a bid to rejuvenate the country’s agricultural outputs by making fertilizer accessible and affordable to farmers in the country.
Particularly, the government, through the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) refurbished 12 out of the 28 existing fertilizer blending plants scattered across the country while additional six blending plants have been scheduled for refurbishment this year.
This move indicates that Nigeria now has the capacity to blend and produce fertilizer locally.
The intervention programme in the country’s fertilizer sector by the government has seen the prices of fertilizer being slashed further in order to make the product available and affordable for small holder farmers.
However, stakeholders believed that ongoing federal government’s effort in the fertilizer industry would see further influx of investors in the sector this year.
Indeed, fertilizer is one of the major agricultural inputs, which farmers depend on for increasing their yields to boost food productivity and security.
At the formal flagged-off of Nigeria’s packaged 72 ton of yam export to United Kingdom at Lilypond Container Terminal, Ijora, Lagos, last year, the Federal Government revealed that Nigeria intends to realise at least $10 billion annually in the next four years from yam exports to Europe and United Kingdom.
The move to commence yam export was in line with the implementation of the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP)-The Green Alternative lunched last year by the Presidency.
Already, the Federal Government intend to take yam production, processing and marketing in Nigeria to the next level this year.
With this, it has opened doors for potential local exporters of agricultural produce willing to join in the export of yam outside the country.
Statistically, Nigeria is by far the world’s largest producer of yam, accounting for 61.7 per cent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s statistics of the world’s production annually and with over 60 yam varieties produced across the states of the federation.
However, there is high expectation of influx of investors into yam export business this year.
In fulfillment of Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP) implementation, the Federal Government revealed that Nigeria’s local sugar production is expected to hit 1.7 million tons by 2023, from its current 30,000 tonnes.
No doubt, the sugar industry is a very lucrative business in Nigeria. But the importation of foreign sugar into the country has set Nigeria’s economy back.
However, with the renewed efforts by government to give priority to local firms in production of sugar to boost local production, there is the tendency that investors would flood the country’s sugar industry this year.
No doubt, the agric sector has been proritised by the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari, but stakeholders are lamenting the inconsistent policy somersaults that have continued to regard their investments.
GMO: Who blinks first – NBMA or HOMEF?
Efforts to establish Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria are currently enmeshed in controversy as two key agencies- National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) accuse each other of sabotaging the nation’s food security. Taiwo Hassan reports
Indeed, Nigeria is one of the luckiest countries in the world that is blessed with large span of arable lands for planting of crops to ensure food productivity and security.
But in spite of the oil, which currently account for 90 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue and foreign Exchange earnings, agriculture remains the base of the nation’s economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians. The sector, no doubt, faces many challenges such as outdated land tenure system that constrains access to land (1.8 ha/farming household), a very low level of irrigation development (less than 1 percent of cropped land under irrigation), limited adoption of research findings and technologies, high cost of farm inputs and poor access to credit. Also included are inefficient fertilizer procurement and distribution, inadequate storage facilities and poor access to markets, which have all combined to keep agricultural productivity low (average of 1.2 metric tons of cereals/ha) with high post-harvest losses and wastes..
Despite these challenges, agriculture still remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy -employing two-thirds of the entire labour force.
Over the past three decades, value-added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than one percent annually. It is estimated that Nigeria has lost $15 billion in annual export opportunity from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa and cotton alone due to continuous decline in the production of those commodities. Food (crop) production increases have not kept pace with population growth, resulting in rising food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency.
The main factors undermining production include reliance on rainfed agriculture, smallholder land holding, and low productivity due to poor planting material, low fertilizer application, and a weak agricultural extension system amongst others
Introduction of GMOs
Meanwhile, the introduction of GMOs into the country’s agriculture may not have gone down well with many Nigerians over lack of empirical evidence to ascertain and certify
them safe for human consumption, even though the country is facing challenges in meeting food production for its teeming huge population.
Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that food production will need to double in some parts of the world by 2050 and this translates to the need for more land for cultivation, which will not be readily available. Hence, the introduction of GMO crops to make enough nutritious food available with limited land, water and other resources was one of the reasons GMO was approved to compliment food security in the world.
The Nigerian authorities had given legislative approval (‘junk science’) to the NBMA.
Those in support of GMOs said population growth will necessitate the need for more food production.
But this may not be suitable yet for Nigerians who are yet get acquainted to GMO products locally except the foreign nationalities living in Nigeria.
Besides, findings have shown that GMO crops are reportedly resistant to droughts, pests and crop diseases, while some are purported to be packed with extra vitamins, minerals and other health benefits.
However, in order to buttress its stance on aggressively developing of GMOs in Nigeria, the NBMA accused an advocacy group- HOMEF for opposing GMOs empirical test and alleged that it was trying to sabotaging Federal Government’s efforts at moving Nigeria towards food security through the application of technology in food production.
The NBMA in a statement, said it was not established to halt the use of GMOs, but to ensure the safety of GMOs on human health, plants, animals and the environment.
The agency said: “The agency has no intention and will never verbally engage HOMEF, but these statements made against the agency are not only incisive but negate the efforts of the Federal Government to ensure safety in the application of the technologies that assure Nigerians of food security and food safety.”
NBMA accused HOMEF of being unpatriotic, noting that it had never breached the law in the discharge of its duties.
“The attention of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has been drawn to a series of incisive and unpatriotic statements peddled by the Health for Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) about the agency and its activities,” said the agency in a statement..
“While the agency does not want to banter with HOMEF or any of its kind, it is important to state here that NBMA is a government agency established by law as a regulatory agency to ensure the safe handling and use of modern biotechnology and its products, which includes Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).”
It will be recalled that HOMEF and its partners had last September criticised the approval by the NBMA for the confined field tests of genetically modified cassava in Ibadan, Oyo State – a move they said was designed to flood the country with genetically modified foods.
But the agency in the statement defended its approval of the field tests of some genetically modified crops, stating that the approval followed due process.
Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, accused the NBMA of abandoning its regulatory mandate.
“The NBMA are not the federal government, they are just an agency of the government and they are the ones that are inciting Nigerians because when they say that GMOs are safe and their job ought to stop GMOs but they are bringing GMOs. It’s completely what a regulatory agency should not be doing,” Bassey said.
Despite the controversy trailing GMO crops in the country, the multimillion dollar questions anti-GMO campaigners are asking is the safety of the environment and food
FG okays 2nd consignment of yam export to UK, U.S.
Nigerian yam exporters are set to export second consignment of yams to the United Kingdom and United States of America in the first quarter of this year. Prof. Simon Irtwang, Chairman, Technical Committee on Yam Export inaugurated by the Federal Government, disclosed this in Abuja.
The move, according to the committee, would eclipsed the 72 tonnes of yam that left the shore of Nigeria through the Apapa port to the U.S. and UK in June last year, which was widely reported as being rejected because it did not meet international specifications.
The chairman said that the committee had embarked on a tour of major markets, particularly those in the South-West, to ascertain the quality of the yams at hand.
According to him, the Federal Government is doing everything possible to ensure that yam rejection is not associated with the second phase during the export of the commodity.
“Not all species of yam are good for export. So, yam farmers and traders need to know the species that are good for export. They also need to know how to select, store and preserve them to increase their freshness and ability to stay long without decaying. We also have to let yam farmers know the seed yams they will plant that will be good for export,” Irtwang told newsmen in Abuja, last Tuesday.
He revealed that there would be no publicity for the second export as the flag-off had already been done last July by the Federal Government. He said that yam exports would be done without much publicity until the National Assembly repealed the Export Prohibition Act.
Irtwang said there was constant communication between the committee and companies involved in the production of cartons for yams packaging as well as those receiving them abroad.
He noted that with the lessons from the first export, the second export would not witness any challenges.
However, some stakeholders believe that the Federal Government’s move to commence second phase of yam export in the country will trigger outrageous price of yam and scarcity in the marketplace.
Farmers’ strike: Implications for Nigeria’s cocoa exports
Recently, cocoa farmers threatened to embark on a nationwide strike over the sector’s neglect by the Federal Government. Taiwo Hassan looks at consequences of the industrial action on Nigeria’s cocoa exports
Indeed, this is not the best of time for the country’s cocoa industry despite the role being played by the Federal Government to promote the development of the nation’s non-oil sector after the slump in the price of crude oil at the international market.
Despite the challenges facing the sector, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has been at the vanguard of repositioning the country’s cocoa industry. But these efforts have not yielded the desired results needed to turnaround the fortunes of the sector under the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
Looming industrial strike
Following the instability in the cocoa industry, aggrieved farmers operating in the sector under the aegis of the National Executive Council of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN) a few days ago, insisted that they would embark on a national strike to protest the abnormalities in the sector.
This strike, if allowed, could spell doom for Nigeria’s cocoa production and decline in revenue accruing to the Federal Government from the sale of the commodity at the International market.
The association, in a communiqué after a meeting in Akure, Ondo State, recently, alleged that government procured substandard agro inputs for the sector, which is hampering productivity and consequently decline in profits by its members.
They expressed concern that this was happening, despite the diversification policy of the Federal Government into agriculture.
The farmers vowed to stage a mega protest across the cocoa producing states in the country, including Abuja and Lagos, to make their stance known to the general public on the happenings in the country’s cocoa industry.
They indicted FMARD for the sector’s woes, which is not in tandem with the current realities in the industry.
According to them, they have made several demands, especially in the area of procuring inputs for cocoa farmers, to the agric ministry without positive response and accused government of not carrying them along in its diversification programme.
However, the National President, Raimi Adeniji, the National Secretary, Adeola Adegoke and representatives of 14 states, signed the communiqué on behalf of the association at the meeting.
They said the development negates the Federal Government’s vision to develop the cocoa sector now that the price of the commodity is soaring at the international market.
Indeed, the association condemned the manner of procuring fake and sub-standard inputs for cocoa farmers, which they said, served as wastes and destroys the cocoa trees.
The association said: “CFAN reiterated our earlier call on Mr. President to re-organise procurement process in the cocoa value chain to give room for our contribution.
“Almost a quarter of Nigeria cocoa plantations were destroyed by fire during last year’s dry season without any support from the Federal Government, despite our complaints.”
They appealed to President Buhari to develop the cocoa industry as he promised during his campaigns.
“CFAN appeals to Buhari to intervene urgently to save the livelihood and future of cocoa farmers, considering the diversification campaign of the present administration,” the statement added.
Besides, the association identified economic woes orchestrated by Federal Government’s monetary policy and other farm droughts as the major reasons for the country’s relegation to the seventh position among cocoa producers in the world.
According to the association, the drought, which occurred last year also led to reduction in production of cocoa in the country.
Similarly, the fire outbreak that gutted almost a quarter of Nigeria cocoa plantations during last year’s dry season was a major factor.
They, however, said that lack of synergy between the public and private sector is another reason why Nigeria slipped to the seventh position as against the second or third position, which the country is expected to be.
They explained that this trend has affected the country in a major way while cocoa producers are still getting a little premium on their produce.
The association added that cocoa producers have been affected in terms of collaboration with the government and international cocoa agencies in grants that should come into the sector.
The threat to embark on industrial action by the cocoa farmers would not be in the best interest of everybody as it would further expose the lacuna in this present administration’s diversification programme to revitalise the country’s agric sector optimally.
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