Elusive fruit works at your fingertips


Feb. 27 (THEWILL) – There is something worrying about Nigeria’s agricultural sector: there is too much talk, but little action. The result is that we continue to sing the chorus of agriculture like a handy fruit, while few results are achieved. Over time, the commonplace that Nigeria was an agricultural exporting country before the oil boom of the early 1970s and reaping huge export earnings from the abundance of palm products, cocoa and ‘peanuts, has become a narrative that fits the place of old fairy tales.

On a daily basis, fingers point to agriculture as the low-hanging fruit that “diversification” could produce in our backyards. In television and radio broadcasts, seminars, symposiums and public lectures, it is agriculture, agriculture, agriculture… “Let’s adopt agriculture…”, “Let’s mechanize and modernize agriculture… “. But, in reality, the sector does not receive the priority it deserves. We are still dependent on poor rural farmers who make a living by plowing their farms to feed our gigantic population. Even at that, the life of the rural farmer who feeds the nation is no better. There are no access roads, no electricity, no running water, no good health care and the children do not benefit from a quality education.

Members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) are advised year after year to get into farming and aim to be job creators, not job seekers. This warning has gone out of fashion, giving nothing but officials filling out their logbooks with activity schedules. Yet agriculture remains the low-hanging fruit that has become increasingly elusive, existing more in official and academic circles where long discussions take place about what needs to be done and by whom. The consequence is the scarcity and the high price of food.

Data speaks

Over the past few years, Nigeria’s inflation rate has been largely driven by rising food prices.

For example, the inflation rate increased by 16.47% (year-on-year) in January 2021, in the face of soaring food prices. The trend continued towards the middle of the year. While the inflation rate fell from 18.12% in April to 17.93% in May, a decrease of 0.19%, the food composite index fell to 22.28% in May 2021, down from 22.72% in April 2021. This means expensive and unaffordable for the majority of the Nigerian population. This has contributed to the poverty rate of 45-50%, according to several reports.

Likewise, the consumer price index, which rose to 15.63% in December 2021, was the first increase after recording consecutive declines since April 2021 – amid soaring food prices.

The devastating effects of rising food prices were captured in the BNS report: for the end of the year 2021 “In December 2021, food inflation on an annual basis was highest in Kogi (22, 82 percent), Enugu (20.65 percent) and Lagos (20.27 percent), while Edo (13.24 percent), Kaduna (13.53 percent) and Sokoto (14.82 percent) recorded the slowest increase.

“On a monthly basis, food inflation in December 2021 was highest in Cross River (4.09%), Akwa Ibom (3.88%) and Rivers (3.79%), while Nasarawa (0 .21%), Jigawa (0.39%) recorded the slowest increase in inflation on a monthly basis, with Kaduna registering price deflation or negative inflation (a general decrease in the price level of food or negative food inflation rate).

What these suggest is that the inflation rate in Nigeria is being driven by soaring food prices that are ravaging people and communities across the states, even when the inflation rate assumes a trend on the decline. This has a direct impact on the population’s standard of living, which has not improved over the years.

The voice of the World Bank

In September 2019, the World Bank sounded the alarm that the food crisis in Nigeria had taken on a frightening dimension, attributing development largely to the poor policies of successive administrations in the country. He regretted that the most populous black nation had gone from its enviable position as a producer and exporter of products in the early 1960s and 1970s to the world’s largest importer of foodstuffs. The global lender said the nation was “tragically living on borrowed time and unable to feed its own citizens who are now very hungry, angry and threatened with war”.

In his keynote address on the summit’s theme, “Agriculture: Your Trillion Dollar Economy”, the World Bank’s Senior Agricultural Economist, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, said Nigeria was reaping the prize. lack of support for investments in agriculture, adding that to reverse the bad trend, the country must now invest at least 7% of its national agricultural budget in relation to GDP in the sector.

The statement was made at the second Sterling Bank International Agriculture Summit in Abuja, which was attended by delegates from all continents of the world, including 40 others representing selected African nations. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo assured Nigerians on the occasion that the government led by Muhammadu Buhari is on track to reinvent the country through agriculture and make the sector the mainstay of the national economy.

Again, the World Bank in November 2021 sounded the alarm over the threat of insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerian household food security. , the bank said Nigeria “already faces complex development challenges” and that the pandemic continues “to affect health outcomes, human capital accumulation, household poverty and coping strategies.” adaptation, as well as the dynamics of the labor market“.

He continues: “With the COVID-19 crisis resulting in associated shocks – particularly to food prices – and with social protection remaining scarce, household food security and overall well-being are under serious threat.

Alarmingly overwhelmed

A major threat to agriculture in Nigeria today is insecurity, especially in the North, which is the country’s breadbasket. From the Centre-North to the North-West and the North-East, the state of insecurity is worsening day by day. A recent report showed that an average of 14 Nigerians were killed every day in 2021. A total of 1,024 reported violent attacks took place in the country in 2021 and killings were reported in all attacks. A total of 5,067 Nigerians are believed to have been killed in 2021 alone – five years after the trend took a dramatic turn in 2016.

In 2019, it was reported that more than 50,000 farms had been abandoned by farmers in Nigeria due to insecurity from killings and kidnappings. In Niger, Borno, Zamfara, Katsina and other states, bandits have taken over farmland, preventing farmers from planting or harvesting. Bandits also impose taxes on farmers to allow them to harvest their crops.

Those who engage in commodity exporting also have sad stories to tell. The chaotic situation of our ports, especially in Lagos, remains a threat to the generation of non-oil revenue through agriculture and agribusiness ventures. Currently, there are a myriad of issues negatively affecting the import and export trade at Nigerian ports.

Similarly, media reports in September 2021 revealed that foreign cargo airlines and local exporters were rapidly abandoning Nigeria’s multi-billion dollar agri-export, due to stifling official bottlenecks. at airports. “Besides the obstacles to importing into the country, more complicated roadblocks have been put in place by government agencies in the form of extortion, harassment and multiple charges on export goods, which has pushed international cargo airlines to prefer to leave Nigeria empty.”

“Of the 16 miscellaneous fees tracked for goods entering or leaving the country via airports, only five are officially recognized.”

Freight agencies explain that the involvement includes a loss of at least $250 billion on agro-exported products to the country.

Another challenge is credit. Although the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has put in place various intervention programs to boost agriculture and agribusiness ventures, it is like a teaspoon of salt in the ocean. It does not go far to allow farmers and the country to reap the rewards.

The outcome

Governments at all levels must take decisive action against insecurity in the country. Improved access to credit should also be expanded.

As the World Bank official put it, “These rewards and anticipated positive changes will only occur if African farmers and agribusinesses can undoubtedly benefit from expanded access to more capital expenditure, uninterrupted electricity, modern technology and well-irrigated areas to grow high-value, nutritious food. ”

“For Nigeria, this is a great window of opportunity to harness the countless openings that exist in the agricultural value chain towards building a sustainable economy that creates hope for the realization of our much desired national development and sustainable food security”.

“The rise in prices seen between June 2020 and June 2021 alone could push an additional six million Nigerians into poverty, with urban areas disproportionately affected. This highlights the need for short-term policies to support well-being.

“The simple simulations suggest that the share of Nigerians living below the national poverty line could have increased from 40.1% to 42.8% due to food price inflation observed between June 2020 and June 2021.

“This means that around 5.6 million more Nigerians would be living in poverty. While food price inflation would reduce purchasing power and increase poverty across Nigeria, it appears that urban areas could be disproportionately affected,” the World Bank said.

Practical steps must be taken to put agriculture on the right track and push it onto the fast track of economic development. Appropriate incentives should be given to those who choose to engage in food production, processing or distribution.

According to the NBS, Nigerian farmers earned a total of N165.26 billion in export earnings in the second half of 2021. Items include raw, processed and semi-processed products available in huge quantities in various parts of the country. With an appropriate and conducive environment, agriculture will play a huge role in the economic development of Nigeria. To achieve this, talks must be matched by action.


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