Already, the year 2021 has come to stay in the anals of the country. Expectedly, all eyes will be on the country’s agric sector performance this year as stakeholders set inclusive agenda for the sector. Taiwo Hassan reports
Indeed, it has been a new dawn in the country’s agric sector since President Muhammadu Buhari secured the mantle of leadership in the year 2015. The premise is to rescue the ailing economy from continued dependence on oil and gas as the major drivers with respect to foreign exchange earnings. Having chosen agriculture, manufacturing and mining as the three key sectors in line with its policy thrust to diversify to nonoil sector from oil sector as part of its diversification agenda of the national economy, President Buhari gave hope back to many Nigerians, especially farmers, to believe in the country. Particularly, the president’s call, urging the private sector, foreign investors and teeming youths to embrace agriculture has clearly given a policy direction to where the country’s economy is heading in the foreseeable future. Following the administration’s agric policies aimed to right the wrong in the country’s agric space, it is correct to say that these policies have not met the expectations of some stakeholders following the incessant attacks on farmers that have heralded the country’s agric sector.
With the New Year in place, stakeholders believe that government’s attention will once again shifte to the sector, especially in finding a lasting solution to the security challenges posing major risks to the sector. No doubt, insecurity is the major challenge currently facing Nigeria’s food security now. Speaking with New Telegraph, the National President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Arc. Kabir Ibrahim, said that the spate of killings of local farmers portends grave danger for the country’s fragile food system post-COVID-19. He said the association was urging the Federal Government to tackle the rising insurgency ravaging the nation’s agric space in order to guarantee the country’s food basket this year. The AFAN chieftain insisted that the country’s agric sector would certainly be further challenged by the rising insecurity in the country this year if government does not act fast, saying that the country’s food system had been adversely affected by COVID-19 and other challenges.
Another major area the stakeholders are prioritising in the New Year is flooding. They said that rising flood in the country, mostly in the northern region, is escalating pressure on food prices, food crisis and hyper inflation. President of the Lagos Chamber Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mrs. Toki Mabaogunje, in an interview with New Telegraph in Lagos, said that the country’s agricultural food basket was being threatened following the unprecedented flooding that washed away food and cash crops on a large scale and disrupted output projections. Mabaogunje explained that the havoc was putting persistent pressure on consumer prices. According to her, the chamber is concerned with the recent incidents of flooding in key food-producing states in the North. Particularly, the LCCI president noted that over two million tonnes of rice were lost to flood just as other crops such as sorghum, corn and millet were also affected. To her, this situation, if not expeditiously addressed and managed, would escalate the pressure on food prices, thereby putting the country on the verge of food crisis. No doubt, taming flood in 2021, according to the farmers, will go along way in safeguarding national food security in the country.
Land border reopening
Towards the end of last year, the Federal Government reopened the country’s borders after one year and four months of closure to protect agricultural products from being smuggled into the country. In particular, President Buhari ordered the immediate reopening of four land borders, namely, Seme in Southwest, Illela in Sokoto State, Maigatari in Northwest and Mfun in the South South. However, agric investors will be watching keenly to ensure agric products are not smuggled. According to the stakeholders, the integrity of the country’s border policy should be protected to ensure that local agricultural products dominate the Nigerian markets rather than the foreign ones. Indeed, the current administration took the bold decision to partially shut down the entire land borders with her neighours over issues bordering on severe economic leakages and insecurity through the border corridors. However, the decision by the Federal Government to shutdown the country’s land borders with neigbouring countries in 2019 from the economic angle was targeted at promoting local products.
With the borders closed for agricultural product importation, agric investors maintained that the hottest investment haven for any prospective investor this year will be rice milling plants in a bid to aggregate the country’s rice production. Particularly, since the Federal Government announced in August 20, 2019 that it had temporary closed the borders with neighbouring countries in a bid to stop them from violating Nigeria’s laws against food smuggling, especially foreign rice, news of floating new rice milling plants emerged across the country. Basically, the partial close down of the country’s land borders with her neighbours yielded fruits in the rice sector value chain. Reports showed that hundreds of rice mills have sprung up in the country, while those that were moribund are now being activated in many rice-producing states of the federation. Many rice millers are now floating rice mills by adding more lines to their production lines in a bid to ensure rice sufficiency in Nigeria and key into government’s diversification agenda to promote agriculture. Notwithstanding the progress being achieved in the country’s rice value chain, there is still room for other prospective investors to establish more rice milling plants in the country this new year.
For the establishment of Genetically Modified Organic (GMO) in Nigeria by the Federal Government, the next big thing in the country’s agric sector is GMO based on the huge support it is getting from foreign donors. Indeed, Nigeria is one of the luckiest countries in the world that is blessed with large span of arable lands for planting of crops in order to ensure food production and security. But the introduction of GMOs into the country’s agriculture may not have gone down well with some section of Nigerians over its lack of empirical evidence to ascertain and certify them safe for human consumption despite the country facing challenges in meeting food production for its teeming huge population. 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 may not be 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 complement food security in the world.
Another area that will be key for the country’s agriculture this year will be availability of fertiliser in large quantity for Nigerian farmers. However, agric stakeholders will be looking forward to the positive impacts of Dangote Fertilizer plant to contribute immensely to local input towards ensuring reduction in price of fertilizer. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Sabo Nanono, said the country was already now self-sufficient in agriculture, saying that in as much as fertiliser importation and other agric commodities would be adversely affected by the pandemic, there is still enough supply of locally produced fertilisers and others in the country to complement farming. The agric minister specifically stated that the administration was very concerned about curbing the reliance on importation of essential agric commodities into the country. He alluded to the fact that COVID- 19 won’t affect food production.
Agric stakeholders are nursing the fears that the potential of the country’s agriculture to excel this year in positive trajectory is bleak and uncertain, unless government takes proactive steps to address the impending challenges in the country’s agric sector in 2021.