By Steve Agbota
AT independence in 1960, agriculture was the largest contributor to the Nigerian economy, accounting for about 63 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is typical for developing agrarian nations.
As at that time incomes were derived from the export of major cash crops like rubber, cocoa, palm oil, cashew nuts, groundnut and cotton, cassava among others and provided about 70 per cent of active labour for Nigerians. But from the 2013 rebased figures the agricultural sector contributed 21.97 percent or N17.625 trillion ($112.26 billion) of the total N80.22 trillion ($510 billion). This compares with N14.71 trillion ($93.7 billion) in the old non-rebased estimates for 2013.
With the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari administration on May 29, 2015, farmers were optimistic that the agricultural sector would experience the much awaited change, expected to transform the sector.
Though, President Muhammadu Buhari, has continued assuring the nation that developing the sector and ensuring food security in the country remained a priority to his administration. One year under the President’s watch, agriculture has experienced tremendous set back as the prices of farm produce have gradually become out of reach for consumers of fresh tomato, rice and garri among others.
The prices of some agricultural items have skyrocketed across the major markets in the country.
For instance between 2014 and April 2015, the price of rice was stable in the market even during the Christmas period, when it sold for N9,000. Today however, a bag of rice is being sold for about N17,000 while one basket of tomato that used to sell for about N4000, to N6000 before is now being sold for N12,000 and a custard plastic of garri that sold for N250, now sells for N750 over night.
However, some stakeholders and farmers who spoke to Daily Sun scored Buhari’s administration a lean 5 per cent in agriculture sector, just because of his appointment of Chief Audu Ogbeh as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Yet other stakeholders in support of President Muhammadu Buhari insist that one year in office was not enough to judge one’s performance. They said the budget has just been approved and that with time Buhari will turn the sector around.
Managing Director of Universal Quest Limited/National Publicity Secretary, National Cashew Association of Nigeria (NCAN), Sotonye Anga, said that one thing Buhari administration has done is appointing Chief Audu Ogbeh as the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development because he understands agriculture.
However, he said the Ministry of Agriculture has not been funded in the last one year, saying the Ministry has not been able to fund any activities or projects because they have not been with money as the budget was not approved on time.
He added: “If you look at it critically, nothing has been achieved in terms of agricultural productivity rather than the Minister putting together the roadmap implementation for agriculture and he has been talking to stakeholder and everybody prefer to work with him to drive growth in the sector. But you cannot drive growth without money. Funding has hampered productivity. In the last one year, food prices have gone high on almost every products.”
Now that the budget has been approved, he stated that agric sector would see a level of improvement, since this is a critical planting season and farmers cannot plant without being funded.
He explained that farmers have almost lost whole planting season 2016 because of lack of fund but by 2017 there be accelerated and dynamic improvement across the agricultural value chain.
The Director of Manfield Farms Venture, Mr. Femi Omoboriowo, said that government has not really done much to unlock the potential in agric sector.
He said however, the proposed 2016 agriculture budget at 1.6 per cent shows that the Nigerian government’s budgetary allocations to the sector is yet to met 10 per cent 2003 Maputo Declaration.
According to him, one thing the past administrations failed to do was to implement the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security and the 10 percent national budget allocation to agriculture development.
He explained: “At the Second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the “Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.
The commitment was to persuade governments to increase spending in the sector to stimulate agricultural growth, reduce poverty, and build food and nutrition security.
“After the meeting in 2003, a total of 13 countries have met or surpassed the 10 per cent target in one or more years since then and they include Burundi, Burkina Faso, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe but Nigeria is yet to join the league.”
He said one of the Buhari’s 5-point agenda was to make Nigeria where entrepreneurship thrives, enterprise flourishes and the government gets out of your way so that you can create value, build the economy and aggressively expand wealth that has not happened.
He added that government should work on policy inconsistence, which has been one of the major problems confronting the sector by encouraging local content, making sure that values are added to the local produces in other to make them exportable. The Sun