Buhari @ One: Stakeholders bemoan agric sector performance …optimistic of development

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(Last Updated On: 2016-05-31)

ABOLAJI ADEBAYO

Prior to oil boom in Nigeria, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigeria’s economy and was the major source of revenue generation for the government. It accounted for about 63 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

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 not experienced any significant development, rather, it continues to get harder on both farmers and consumers 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 N15,000 while one basket of tomato that used to sell for about N6000 before is now being sold for N42,000 and a custard plastic of garri that sold for N250, now sells for N750 over night.

However, some stakeholders and farmers who spoke to National Mirror said they were optimistic that the sector would be turned around for better in the years ahead.
According to the National President, Poultry Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan, the Minister of Agriculture,  Chief Audu Ogbeh, nad the Federal Government have better policies on ground to develop the sector but were constrained with paucity of fund.
He said the only thing with the government was that the sector was still underfunded. He noted that the sector should gulp N600billion in accordance to Maputo Declaration.
He said, “The Minister of Agriculture has good intention and good policies but may not have funds to execute those policies and programmes.”

While accounting for the challenges faced by the sector within one year of Buhari in government, Oduntan said the Forex policy has affected the farmers as about 10 per cent of their input was imported while the remaining 90 per cent was locally sourced.
He also noted that prices of agricultural materials were higher within the one year period, limiting the production capacity of most farmers.
He further noted that the delayed budget also affected the sector within the year under review.

The PAN boss, who was in total support of the government’s policies and activities said he was optimistic that the coming year would be a boom for the sector as the government has promised to ease the farmer’s pain. He also appealed to the government to pay the compensation promised the poultry farmers, who were affected by birds flu.
He added that the signing of budget would ease the tension and that the sector would bounce back to normal.

He therefore urged the Federal government to review the forex policy especially to allow the farmer source their materials that could not be sourced locally in order not to destroy their activities because of 10 per cent materials.
Equally speaking, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, Lagos Chapter, Otunba Femi Oke, believed that the delayed in the budget contributed to low performance of the sector in the last one year.
However, Oke said the Federal Government made some improvement to the sector, claiming that within the last one year, commercial banks were now romancing farmers in term of loans. He added that the Bank of Agriculture also reduced its interest rate to 5 per cent for the farmer, saying that that indicated the availability of intervention funds.
However, Oke said the issue Certificate of Occupancy as required collateral by the banks remained a big issue still restraining some farmers away from accessing the loans.
He also noted that the government reviewed the policies in favour of the farmers as some discovered crops like Moringa and others were included in the list while some youths development programmes were also highlighted in the policy.

Meanwhile, he believed that the sector was on the part of recovery, hoping that the government would be more concerned in the years ahead.
The President of Rice Importers, Millerers and Distributors association of Nigeria, RIMIDAN, Tunj Owoeye, also said the government had tried in the area of finance, noting that some categories of farmers were able to access loans from Bank of Industry, BOA, with a single digit interest rate.
He also believed that by time, the sector would be put on the right path of development. On his own, he believed the Forex policy was good for the development of the local production particularly the agricultural products. He however believed that the policy could be reviewed to allow flexibility.

The Publicity Secretary of the National Cashew Association of Nigeria, Anga Sotonye, believed the government had not done what it was supposed to do to develop the sector.
He said the sector has to be more funded while enabling environment has to be created to attract more youths into the sector by giving the farmers incentives.
He noticed that no farmer was incentivized in the last one year of the present administration. He therefore urged the government to release funds for the sector to enable the farmers to be more productive, while encouraging diversification campaign by the government.
He said the diversification campaign was not backed up with action.

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