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Budget: Stakeholders decry poor allocation to agriculture

Key agric agencies in the country have lamented the 1.11 per cent (N228.4 billion) budgetary allocation out of N20.5 trillion to the agricultural sector by the Federal Government as food crisis looms across the country. Their dissatisfaction was made known during a media conference in Abuja recently where leaders of ActionAid Nigeria (AAN), Small-scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON), CAADP Non-State Actors Coalition (CNC) took turns to read the joint address tagged, “2023 Proposed Agriculture Budget.” According to them, the analysis focused on the proposed 2023 agricultural sector’s budget to x-ray how the sector will be funded and positioned for growth, employment generation, meeting domestic food demand, and generation of foreign exchange via exports within the perimeters of the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) framework.

They also expressed concerns over how the budget addressed smallholder farmers, women, and youth; irrigation; climate resilience and sustainable agriculture, value chain development; access to credit; extension services; mechanisation, and post-harvest losses, among other issues. They said: “Out of the N20.5 trillion, the agricultural sector’s allocation is N228.4 billion (1.1 per cent), which is rather low in terms of its proportion to the entire budget.

“In the last seven years or more, the budget for the agricultural sector has not exceeded two per cent of the total budget. “Given that the agricultural sector is judged to be the sector with the potential to transform the entire economy and employ the teeming youth, adequate funding must be prioritized for it in the national budget.” Pointing at the CAADP benchmark, they argued that if the government is to allocate 10 per cent of N20.507 billion (the budget amount), it, therefore, means that the expected amount should be N2.050 trillion, which with the current amount allocated to the sector indicates a shortfall and a huge gap of N1.822 trillion.

The Country Director of ActionAid Nigeria, Ene Obi, who was represented by the Director of Resource Mobilisation and Innovation, Andrew Mamedu, stressed that a paltry 1.11 per cent allocation to agriculture wss no longer acceptable. Obi also noted that if the government adequately supports smallholder farmers, they would faithfully pay taxes to the government, which they are willing and ready to do as it will generate huge revenue for the country. Her words: “We just had an emergency. Just a few weeks back, thousands of farmers were affected by the flood, and we think it is business as usual? That calls for an extra emergency fund for agriculture.

If we are not getting the message definitely it will wait for us. “Food is critical. So even if we are borrowing money, we are borrowing money to invest. We should invest in the agric sector, 1.11 per cent budgetary allocation to Agriculture is not acceptable.” It would be recalled that in 2022, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development got an allocation of N185 billion while its departments and agencies received N106.3 billion, and in 2023, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development received an allocation of N131.7 billion while its 45 agencies, including universities of agriculture, received N97.7 billion. Stakeholders in the sector condemned the sharing formula and said it was unfair and should be adjusted in order for implementing agencies to have a larger chunk of the total budgetary allocation to execute expected projects, programmes and policies.

They further noted that some of the weaknesses in the agricultural budget included an amount too low to achieve the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy, NATIP; unclear support for smallholder agriculture; poor funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and others. Speaking further, the group pointed out that threats to the implementation of the 2023 agricultural budget included preparation towards the 2023 general elections, late release of funds, and the main ministry’s dominance over implementing departments and agencies.

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