By Ayo Fadimu
The 2017 agriculture sector started on a very sour note with prices of foods soaring at a very alarming rate.
For instance, a bag of rice which was sold between N9500 at the middle of 2016 was sold for N18,000 at the beginning of the year, a paint bucket size of gaari which used to be N250 was sold for N900. A lire of palm oil which was N250 was sold for N800 while a 50 kg of beans which used to be N12,000 was sold for N22,000 at the beginning of 2017.
However, a survey by the business intelligence unit of Nigerian NewsDirect on Christmas day revealed that a bag of rice is now being sold at N12,000 in Lagos markets. a paint size of gaari is now N400 while a litre of palm oil is now N400. A 50kg of beans is now N15,000 while a basket of tomato at Ile epo market in Lagos is N12,000 while a basket of onions is N5,000.
The reason for the high price included the fall of naira against foreign currencies. The nation’s currency fell to abysmally low N500 to $1 at the beginning of the year. Other challenges include activities of the Boko Haram sect in the North-East area of the country. This particularly affected the price of beans which is highly grown in Borno State. Other factors include infrastructure deficit in the country especially road network and storage problems.
Farming is still ptactised at subsistence level in the country. Few companies and individuals who can afford to buy or lease tractors and other farm machinery do so at exorbitant costs.
Although, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has intervened through Anchors Borrowers Programme but many of the beneficiaries are portfolio or political farmers as put by the Chairman of Agriculture sector of Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Prince Wale Oyekoya in a chat with Nigerian NewsDirect while appraising the agriculture sector in 2017.
According to Oyekoya, there is really anything working in the sector capable of reflecting upon.
“With increase in price of many food items as much as 400% in the market, there is really problem in the sector” he said.
He called on the government to go back to work and stop doing propaganda on stomach because hunger is a respecter of nobody.
On the anchors problem, Oyekoya insisted that the program has failed. “The emergency, political and portfolio farmers have made the program to fail”
The LCCI sector Chairman also cautioned the government against the move to import seven vessels of maize into the country.
Presently, maize is sold around N180,000 per tonne but when the imported maize comes in, it will be sold at N40,000 per tonne.
‘This move will greatly affect the maize farmers who have invested heavily on their farms. The government should know that the government of those countries greatly empowered their farmers to produce such maize at that price, so they should also empower the Nigerian farmers”
He also cautioned on the health suitability of the crops as they may not be safe for consumption.
The GDP From Agriculture in Nigeria increased to N5,189,365.99bn in the third quarter of 2017 from N3,745,091.59bn in the second quarter of 2017. GDP From Agriculture in Nigeria averaged N3,736,080.83bn from 2010 until 2017, reaching an all time high of N5,189,365.99bn in the third quarter of 2017 and a record low of N2,594,759.86 bn in the first quarter of 2010.
In his submission, the Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos State, Otunba Femi Oke said the 2%national budgetary allocation to agric sector in 2017 was below standard. In 2017, a sum of N92 bn was earmarked for agric sector but the 2018 proposed budget for Agriculture and Rural Development is N118.98 billion.
According to President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dr Frank Jacob,” this allocation appears insignificant considering the importance of agriculture to food security and provision of raw materials for the industrial sector”
Oke said increased government intervention in the sector assisted the sector to move a bit out of the problems that bedevilled it at the beginning of the year.
“Government agencies like CBN, Bank of Agriculture, Bank of Industry and The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) assisted the sector a lot.
However, he wants the government to subsidize raw materials and other items for the farmers. He also called for increased stakeholders’ collaboration in formulation and implementation of government’s agric policies