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.
Dogara’s wife assists 7, 000 women farmers in Bauchi
As part of efforts to encourage women farmers, the wife of the Speaker House of Representatives Mrs Gimbiya Yakubu Dogara has distributed farms seeding to seven thousand women farmers in Bauchi state.
Mrs. Dogara represented by the Coordinator of the Sun Of Hope Foundation Mrs Darambi Kefas explained that the organization had supported 3, 500 women farmers in the constituency last year to cultivate rice which became so scarce for some time now saying 3, 500 youths were included in this year to cultivate maize with a view to eradicating hunger in the society.
She said three thousand five hundred (3, 500) women farmers were provided with rice seeds and additional three thousand five hundred (3500) women with maize seeds saying were donated free of charge by her pet project ‘Sun Of Hope Foundation’.
The women beneficiaries were drawn from Bogoro, Tafawa Balewa and Dass Federal constituency of Bauchi State where the speaker represents.
She noted that the new beneficiaries are being selected yearly from all wards in the three local government in order to carry all constituents along.
Mrs Dogara stated that the foundation intervenes in the areas of agriculture, health, education and children’s welfare said they recently donated medical equipment and consumables to Virginal Vestibular Fistula (VVF) centres in Ningi, Bauchi State, Akwa Ibom and Hajiya Gambo Sawaba VVF centre, Zaria.
” The foundation had in the recent time sponsored free ante natals to pregnant women in Dass local government and offers free medical outreach at the annual ‘Limzaar’ festival in Tafawa Balewa local government”, She said.
Responding on behalf of other beneficiaries, Esther Bitrus expressed appreciation to the Speaker’s wife for the gesture promising that they would make good use of the seeds.
Meanwhile, Mrs Dogara also donated two bags of rice, one bag of maize and baby kits and wares to mother of triplets Mrs Rachael Gabriel at Lafiyan Sara village in the local government.
New agric laws: How far can NASS go?
Just recently, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, called for the enactment of new legislation that can foster, guide and revolutionise agricultural activities in the country. TAIWO HASSAN juxtaposes this move with the realities on ground
Overview of Nigerian agric sector
Indeed, since the nation’s 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 as at 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 by continually sustaining 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 stabilize the moribund economy.
Particularly, the government floated the various economic policies including the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), in order to stem the steady decline in the country’s economic fortunes.
For agriculture, the present administration launched the Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2020) as a roadmap towards the revival of country’s agricultural sector.
According to the government, it is a comprehensive plan and a well thought-out strategy -to meaningfully and systematically address the myriad of challenges militating against the growth of the agricultural sector, with a view to providing innovative solutions for reviving and repositioning the sector for accelerated national development.
However, the agric policy of the government became the toast of some eminent industrialists, commercial farmers, foreign/ local investors and agro-allied industries as they ventured into different aspects of farming in order to provide food sufficiency and security for Nigerian populace.
Nigerian agricultural policy
Indeed, Nigeria has a robust agricultural policy set out in the Nigerian Agricultural Policy 2000, which provides the framework for the implementation of programmes and guidelines for agricultural development. The overreaching objectives of the Policy are:
The achievement of self-sufficiency in basic food supply and attainment of food security, increased production of agricultural raw materials for industries, eradication of poverty, development of the rural economy, and protection of environment.
This is expected to be achieved through the: Creation of a conducive macro-environment to stimulate private sector investment in agriculture, rationalisation of the roles of the three tiers of government in their promotional and supportive activities to stimulate growth, articulation and implementation of integrated rural development as a priority, National programme to raise the quality of life for rural people, increased agricultural production through increased budgetary allocation and promotion of the necessary developmental, supportive and serviceoriented activities, increasing fiscal incentives and promotion of increased use of agricultural machinery and inputs through a favourable tariff regime.
The policy is successfully implemented in areas of food crops such as maize, beans, sorghum, yam, millet, cassava, pineapple, and oranges.
However, the policy is less successful and greater investment will be required in areas of cash crops such as oil palm, cocoa, rubber, groundnut, cotton, cashew and sugar cane, and food crops such as potato, rice, wheat and fruit crops. House of Reps’ new agricultural laws However, having realized that the country had ots of agricultural laws that are no longer relevant and obsolete, the House of Reps called for the enactment of new laws that will take the agricultural sector to new highs while turning it into a major foreign exchange earner for the country in the nearest future.
The Speaker of House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara while speaking at a two-day public hearing organised by the House Committee on Agricultural Colleges and Institutions in Abuja, recently affirmed that it was time for legislating new agricultural laws for the country.
He said that there was need to ensure bills processed by the legislature were cost-sensitive and did not increase the financial burden of the nation through the multiplication of agencies.
The proliferation of agencies, according to him, is not conducive to the economic well-being of the nation as a new agency “comes with its complement of bureaucracy.”
Instead, he advocated for the amendment of the functions and mandate of existing agencies, where possible. Dogara added: “Furthermore, in cases where there is need to reinvigorate a particular sector and lay emphasis, it may become necessary to carve out an agency from an existing one.”
He reiterated that the agricultural sector requires up-to-date legislation for continuous growth and development. He said, “It is very gratifying to note that giant strides are being made in the sector.
“Up-to-date legislation is required to aid the drive to modernize agricultural practices, drive economic diversification, achieve food self-sufficiency, and ultimately turn agriculture into a major foreign exchange earner in the nearest future.”
New agric bills
The bills being considered by the committee include a Bill for an Act to Regulate the Profession of Agriculture and to make provision for the Establishment, Functions and Administration of Nigerian Institute of Agriculturists, and for Other Related Matters. (HB.838). Also under consideration, is a Bill for the Act to Repeal the Veterinary Surgeons Act. Cap. V3, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and for Other Related Matters (HB. 836). In his remarks, the Speaker urged the committee to ensure the bills were in accordance with legal, regulatorky and economic goals set out for the agricultural sector through appropriate scrutiny.
Agricultural experts, under the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), are however, pessimism about the lawmakers’ stance to promulgate new agricultural laws given the lifespan of the current administration, saying the bills could be waste of national resources.
Food Security: NYC tasks FG, private sector on organic farming
Nigeria Youth Congress (NYC) has called on Federal Government and those in private sector to embrace technology-based organic farming, in order to guarantee Nigeria’s food security and create more employment opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths.
The Congress made this known in Abuja while honouring the Chairman and Founder, CONTEC Global, Dr. Benoy Berry, as ‘Champion of Youth Empowerment’. This stemmed from his bold investment in organic farming through the deployment of science and ICT across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
President of NYC, Dr. Yakubu Shendam, urged both federal and state governments and the private sector, to team up with the company in its drive to return Nigeria to food security through organic farming using latest biological solutions and cutting-edge technology.
While applauding the advocate of Nigeria’s organic farming for empowering Nigerian youths through setting up the AfriOne smart handset with various applications in Africa, Shendam said the NYC would take the campaign for organic farming across the nooks and crannies of Nigeria to stimulate youths’ interest in organic farming. “We are interested in keying into this agriculture revolution, I call on governments and other stakeholders to key in as this is the only way that we can create jobs for our youths as the company is helping to develop our agriculture.
“We are surprised to know that there are tissue culture and organic facilities here in Abuja that can eliminate carcinogenic properties from crops thereby reducing the health challenges associated with imported chemical fertilizers.
Besides, he said : “While some businessmen are busy importing fake chemicals from abroad, here you have the remedy through organic fertilizer to keep our health in sound condition.
If you will continue to do this our country and Africa will be safe and there will be enough food for everyone. We, therefore, bestow on you the ‘Champion of Youth Empowerment.’
“We salute you and we are happy with what you are doing concerning agriculture because this is in consonance with President Muhammadu Buhari, is advocating for in agriculture, using it to diversify the economy and employing the youths because as we cannot continue to rely and depend on oil alone for foreign exchange as agriculture is the key,” he added.
In his response, Dr. Berry acceded to the request by the NYC to host Nigeria’s first youth summit on use of technology and modern farming methods to drive food security as done in China and India as soon as possible.
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