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Maximising Nigeria’s Agric Comparative Advantage As New Minister Assumes Office by 1stUnique(m): 5:16pm On Nov 16, 2015
As most Nigerian state governments struggle to pay salary arrears and find it difficult to execute ongoing projects, the Federal Government is
battling with low revenue generation, increasing number of unemployed graduates and rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. The power sector is
failing and manufacturing sector is almost dead, snowballing into a struggling economy whose currency and the capital market are heavily
pressured and volatile.

One of the sources of the pressure on the economy has been rightly diagnosed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) resulting in its withdrawing the supply of foreign exchange for the importation of over 40 items which the country can produce, which are mostly agricultural.

Joining hundreds of others calling for economic diversification, Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC),
Ibe Kachikwu, at the ongoing Lagos international trade fair, said Nigeria had to quickly diversify its economy to come out of the present economic quagmire.

Mr Alex Akinbo, former Country Manager of Solidaridad, an international organization promoting sustainable and pure cocoa production in Africa, is of the opinion that the meticulous review, and careful implementation of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda of the Federal
Government, which was initiated five years ago with the goals of making the country self-sufficient in food production by 2015 and end the
N356 billion spent on importing rice annually, is the second leg to complement the restricted item.

Doing so, he said, would ensure all-round development of the agricultural sector, which would lead to job creation, agricultural productivity, export and revenue to the government. Major crops through which Nigeria used to generate huge revenue before and shortly after independence, including cocoa, cashew, maize, groundnut, experts said, could still be explored with improved varieties, technologies and value
addition to create jobs for Nigerians and additional revenue for the government.

Cashew

India earns more than 200 million dollars a year by exporting 40 to 50 thousand tonnes of cashew kernels and the country’s trade links are spread over 40 countries. Cashew is a craze in the United States which is by far the largest buyer. The other major purchasers are Japan, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and countries in the Middle East.

In contrast, Nigeria, which was said to be one of the largest world producers of cashew nuts, with a total production of 650,000 metric tonnes of cashew nut shell in 2010, makes about $160,000. The difference, experts said, is value addition, and Nigeria too must add value to cashew before export.

African Cashew Alliance (ACA) said over 344,000 new jobs and 75 million dollars additional revenue could come from the Nigeria’s cashew processing industry, if properly managed. Mr Sunil Dahiya, the ACA Business Development Manager, said this recently at the opening of a two day-workshop on ‘Cashew Business Competitiveness and Environmental Sustainability’ in Ilorin.

“The commercial production of cashew in Nigeria currently values approximately 160 million dollars and supports the livelihood of over one million people. “Only about 20 per cent of the raw cashew nuts produced in the country were processed into kernels. An increase of 20 per cent within Nigeria’s processing industry can create more than 344,000 new jobs and generate over 75 million-dollar of additional revenue. “Business competitiveness and environmental sustainability are crucial to the future success of the Nigerian cashew sector,” he said.

Mr Segun Awolowo, the Executive Director/CEO, Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), said that cashew nut export was a significant contributor to Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. Awolowo, speaking through Chief William Ezeagu, the Deputy Director, Product Development Department of the council, also said the cashew industry had the potential to generate economic growth through wealth creation.

According to him, the potential of the commodity necessitated its inclusion among the National Strategic Export Products (NSEP) because of its
foreign exchange earning potential. Working with the NEPC, the new minister, therefore, should make efforts to encourage processing of cashew nuts by supporting existing facilities to expand operations and by encouraging new indigenous and foreign investors to maximize the opportunities presented by the cash crop. Land, tax holidays and facilitation of funds from the Bank of Agriculture and Bank of Industry can be used to attract and sustain investors into this aspect of cash-spinning crop.

Cocoa

Mr Akin Olusuyi, Managing Director, Oluji Cocoa Products Ltd, an industrial cocoa processing plant in Ile-Oluji, Ondo State, said the cocoa sub-sector should be developed to “occupy the first position of being the largest cocoa producer in the world because Nigeria has land for cultivation and it could be grown in 22 states of the federation. Deliberate policies and encouragement, he said, are what the country needs to increase cocoa productivity in Nigeria.

“To this end, we must address the issues of old farmers and old plantations. Most farmers are over 60 years and youths are no longer interested, in reality. Is there any youth who wants to settle down at places where there is no power supply or internet facility? So there must be deliberate efforts to develop rural areas and attract young people to agribusiness. This is not only for cocoa, but also for all other cash crops.

“There are many rural areas where even motorcycles cannot reach. We must be pragmatic in our approach and the basic facilities that make people to stay in the cities must also be provided in the rural areas.

“The method of cultivation must be addressed. You cannot increase productivity in the 21st century with hoes and cutlasses. The government
must acquire land, open it up and allocate to farmers, especially in the southwest where we have forests.

“Another thing to increase cocoa productivity is to move away from being producer and supplier of raw materials to Europe as we were doing 50 years ago. We must explore value chain by processing. We are producing between 200,000 and 300,000 tonnes of cocoa per annum and we
export about 200,000 tonnes of it raw. And those exporting it are not even Nigerians. How can we develop this way?

“We must add value before we export. If the government addresses productivity, it must also address value addition and local consumption. Let
us create industries around agriculture.

Dr Peter Aikpopodion, former Cocoa Value Chain coordinator for ATA and one of the breeders of early maturing cocoa varieties, also emphasized the role the cocoa industry could play in the economy considering the increasing value the product attracts in international markets.Aikpopodion said: “With over 40 per cent drop in oil revenue, cocoa and other cash crops have big roles to play in the economy. Since we have comparative advantage in cocoa production, we need to increase its production by supporting farmers to do that.

“Two, it is very important to put in place a coordinating body to handle cocoa value chain activities.

“Third, the new minister of agriculture should also work with the minister of trade and investment as well as minister of finance to put in place this coordinating structure with the private sector participation. In fact, the private sector should take the leadership role while the government
should set the rules. This is not just for cocoa, but also all other cash crops like cashew, palm, groundnut and others. The government should
make concessionary funding available to this coordinating body for investment, say, from N100 to N200billion targeted at developing crops value chains.

“Fourth, we have to find a way of promoting local consumption of cocoa. Brazil used to be an exporter of cocoa, but after a policy to encourage
local consumption, it now imports cocoa to supplement production. Brazil produces almost the same quantity with Nigeria, and it has overtaken Cameroun and it still imports because the local utilisation has been developed.

He concluded that “the government should support developmental efforts through research. Once we have all of these in place, small and medium industries will spring up around cocoa, producing chocolate and other cocoa-based products. This will create employment.”

Rice potential

With N356 billion spent on importing rice annually, development of the economy could be fast-tracked with multiplier effect of balance of trade, employment generation and poverty alleviation if the fund is injected in paddy cultivation, harvesting, processing and marketing of locally produced rice.

Dr Francis Nwilene, Regional Coordinator and Representative, Africa Rice Centre, Ibadan, said “that the new minister is said to be interested in
the agricultural transformation agenda of the past government is a good beginning. But he has to review the whole ATA programme; that is the
first step.”

He advocated the fast-tracking of the programme and that the minister should look for its weaknesses, for instance, in the area of seeds supply chain. “The quality of rice seeds from seed companies is not what they call it,” he said, “there is an element of fraud in the seed supply system, and that is why farmers are not buying. If farmers are ready to pay for fertilizer, why are they not ready to pay for rice seeds if the seeds are good? This must be checked.”

Nwilene also advised the new minister to assemble a formidable team of experts and technocrats who could deliver results with available resources, saying also that the angle of youth empowerment should be considered. “The rice sector is segmented into production, processing and marketing. A lot of youths should be incorporated into all of these. We should develop each of those segments.”

In the area of value addition, Nwilene said encouraging local processors with cottage industry by facilitating cost-effective funding through the Bank of Agriculture and BoI would also boost their capacity.

“We have to support our own people who operate cottage processing mills. Yes, the integrated mills must come on board, but empowerment requires supporting cottage mills. Most of them now use de-stoners. They are now acquiring boilers and polishers so that their products are like the ones from integrated mills.

“For us, we believe that the cottage rice mills have the potential for job creation for local people, unlike integrated mills populated with foreign employees. If the integrated mills leave the country tomorrow, what happens? That is why we must create a balance by developing clusters of local cottage rice mills around the country,” the Africa Rice Centre-Nigeria boss said.

Maize

Maize production is very crucial not only for direct human consumption, but also for industrial use and livestock feeds production. The crop is
keenly competitive, causing scarcity at certain periods of the year. With the restriction on forex for this purpose, demand may outgrow production and this may lead to ripple effects of inflation. Therefore, according to former chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) in Oyo State, Mr John Olateru, the new minister should fashion out strategies for aggressive maize production; make provision for storage facilities at grain reserve centres to take care of demands off seasons and empower maize farmers with improved varieties, herbicides and fertiliser for greater productivity.

Country Manager, Pioneer Seeds Nigeria, Mr Olumide Ibikunle, advocated complete value chain activities, starting from high quality seeds,
sustainability of empowerment scheme and post- harvest handling. He suggested the creation of Agricultural Transformation Agenda Agency, as it is patterned in Ethiopia, which is going to be a national agency with consultants, reputable private corporate, where, he said, Pioneer Seeds plays a key role in the maize productivity by providing varieties with 10 tonnes per hectare of land. This way, he said, ATA would transcend
administrations like NAFDAC, SMEDAN and other agencies.

He said: “When we talk about productivity, we are talking of the land, storage, post-harvest handling and marketing. They have not done anything with the Agriculture Transformation Agenda this year. And it should go beyond an administration.

“In the Agriculture Transformation Programme in Ethiopia, they have the ministry of agriculture doing what they should do; regulation, enforcement providing conducive environment, and they now have an Agriculture Transformation Agenda Agency, where you have only consultants and technocrats developing programmes. “Rural development,” he said, “must be part of the productivity. There is no agricultural development programme we want to do without thinking of roads. That agency transients every administration, it becomes a national agenda, it
becomes a do or die for the country.”

Commodity boards

A good number of stakeholders have expressed optimism that commodity boards will ensure stability of cash crops’ prices, even in times of gluts, saying inputs and credits could be facilitated by the boards, led by the private sector operators.

Former Ondo State Commissioner for Agriculture and now Deputy Governor, Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo, had said the state government had put in place Akure Cocoa Commodity Exchange, which, he said, would buy at international prices from farmers as a marketing solution and impetus for more production and productivity of the cash crop in and around the state.

Infrastructure and extension services

The country is lagging behind in agricultural infrastructure for production, processing and storage. Most farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture
and a few irrigation facilities that are available are in state of disrepair. Rainfall is seasonal, scarce or unreliable and this causes crop failure, as experienced in some parts of the country in the last planting season between April and August this year.

Professor Damian Chikwendu, former National Coordinator of West Africa Agricultural Productivity Programmes (WAAPP), had earlier said ineffective extension service delivery was a significant contributor to the low productivity in agriculture in the country. To this end, he said,
WAAPP had been on the forefront of reviving the extension services with private sector participation.

The minister, therefore, should advocate an articulate policy on infrastructure road map to really make agriculture commercial, industrial and
sustainable by executing the agricultural equipment hiring scheme, and by building or facilitating emplacement of storage and processing facilities in each of the states of the federation based on comparative advantages and crop specialisation of each state.


http://tribuneonlineng.com/maximising-nigeria%E2%80%99s-agric-comparative-advantage-as-new-minister-assumes-office
Re: Maximising Nigeria’s Agric Comparative Advantage As New Minister Assumes Office by mikolo80: 2:28am On Nov 17, 2015
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