LAGOS – With the re-election of President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office, as declared by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), stakeholders in the agriculture sector have challenged him to urgently pay serious attention to the various issues that are still bedeviling the sector.
Analysts have reeled out challenges that need urgent attention to include: smuggling of products such as rice, poultry products, aquaculture, which if adequate attention and encouragement are given to Nigerian farmers, would enhance their capacity to produce and also meet the demands of the teeming population.
Also, is the naughty issue of post-harvest losses, which has posed challenges to farmers. It has been identified as one which needs the urgent attention of the President as he plans to round up his first term in office and begin another four-year-term.
Despite the proposed intervention of the President Buhari, the administration has not been able to critically address the rising spate of hostility and insecurity arising from the clashes between crop farmers and nomadic herdsmen resulting in social violence and killing in some part of the country.
Expert pointed out that a country like Nigeria among other African countries is endowed and blessed with fertile land and climate that does not only support crop production, but also animal husbandry; that the priority of every government, both Federal and states, provide basic needs like food, clothing and shelter for her teeming population by focusing and improving her budget for agricultural sector.
Attending to the financial challenges of farmers in rural area through the provision of motorable farm roads and other infrastructure has also been identified as a means that would quicken the actualisation of restructuring the economy to redirects its attention from oil as her major revenue base, but also agriculture.
Emeka Okereke, Director General Enugu Chambers of Commerce, Mines and Agriculture (ECCIMA) said that the chamber is happy that the Federal Government is seriously taking agriculture as a focal point to diversify the nation’s economy.
“It is a welcome decision because of the quantum of the employment opportunities it will have in terms of primary and secondary agric product, the issue of agro allied industries that will be set up.
He advised that the Federal government should consolidate on that because the target of having food security for the country is very key and important.
Okereke added that government should identify the comparative advantage of crops, cash products and others agric produce that are associated with agriculture to be replicated in different parts of the country.
According to him, these would diversify agricultural commitment by the Federal Government that will spur the people to also get into more of commercial farming.
“They need to spread it across the country depending on the comparative advantage of the type of product that is prevalent in such areas. That is what we are looking at and of course they have started well in terms of agricultural policies they need to consolidate on that,” he added.
Wale Oyekoya, an analyst, who is also the Chief Executive Officer of Bama Foods, in his view said that the current Nigerian administration promises to focus on the improvement of the economic status of an average Nigerian and Nigerians felt the impact through the revolutionized agricultural sector.
“This has in no small measure helped to increase the country’s internally generated revenue index and foreign exchange capacity through its strategic ways of empowering, encouraging and enhancing locally made farm produce.
He added that this strategy initiated the home grown feeding programme which is designed to put an end to the importation and market monopoly of farm produce that can be grown locally in Nigeria.
“The ban on the importation of crops like rice, tomatoes product among others, and the systematic improvement on the standard of our crop production to align with global standard is yet a plus to his administration as Nigerians are still waiting to see the outcome of this scheme since the administration is yet to fully implement the financial assistance to the real farmers to adequately provide for the nation and exportation,” he added.
Oyekoya desired the second term of his administration, to as a matter of urgency; provide a lasting solution to the rift between the crop farmers and the normal herdsmen to stabilise the problem of insecurity and to reduce the killing saga.
“His administration should plan to surpass the expectations of the populace by striving to diversify its economy into agriculture by resuscitating the agricultural sector to become the new oil in the country by stepping up production to meet and bridge the importation gap, provide strategic food reserves and generate surplus for exports to earn income and sustain the farming enterprise,”
Further in his advocacy said this would in no small measure contribute to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Anibe Achimugu, National President, Cotton Farmers’ Association of Nigeria, tasked the government to step creation of an enabling environment for businesess to thrive in the agribusiness sector.
He called for deliberate focus to develop the agribusiness sector of the country so that it can increase its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“We expect that government will continue to create an enabling environment to continue to support primary crops production through Anchor Borrowers Programme, support for large-scale mechanised farming, favourable foreign exchange policy for exporters, and access to cheaper (two to three per cent) sources of funding to remain competitive.
“We also need full implementation of zero percent duty on spares, machinery and equipment to assist the nation’s agro processors,” he said.
Nurudeen Tiamiyu, National Vice President of the Tilapia and Aquaculture Developers’ Association of Nigeria (TADAN), tasked the incoming government to do more to address the issue of smuggling in order to support local production.
Muftau Oyelekan, immediate past President of the Federated FADAMA Community Association, Lagos chapter, said his expectation centres around serious commitment from all tiers of government in the area of investments in agricultural production, processing and packaging.
He also noted that policies that will assist famers should be implemented in the second term of President Buhari.
“We are equally looking at policies that will assist the farmers on the percentage of loan directly from the Central Bank. We equally want to see more of the execution of the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP).
“The ABP is more or success in the rice production but we want to see it in other commodities like cassava, vegetable production, among others, because the vegetable is a daily intake,” he added.
Oyelekan further stressed that he t the government must showa a serious commitment to the agriculture sector and also make life easy for all the farmers and rural dwellers.
Adeola Elliott, former Chairman, Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Agric and Agro Allied Group, stated that priority should now be on agro-processing, noting that efforts have been concentrated on planting and the six geo-political zones have become major producers of different staple foods.
He said that the state and local governments must partner with the Federal Government to ensure the installation of processing facilities for the products enjoyed by each local government and where enjoy a comparative advantage.
“We are now facing a huge crisis of raw food wastage before they are moved to cities. It is advisable that we invest heavily in agro-processing. The state government and local governments must partner with the Federal Government to ensure the installation of processing facilities for the products each local government enjoys comparative advantages over. The farming activities are primarily done in the local governments,” he said.
Elliott further stated that the local governments will need to strengthen the department responsible for agricultural activities, adding that if this is done, the drift from local government to cities will reduce as able-bodied youths and graduates as trained manpower in to man the agro-processing facilities.