At the dawn of the current economic realities in Nigeria, no citizen or resident in the country needed a diviner to explain our hopelessness in the oil sector. Although the wells were not dry, neither have they ceased to flow, yet their content obviously lost the value it hitherto weighed. The reason behind this later development is yet to be unraveled.
However, the search, for sustainable means of livelihood in the face of adverse economic realities for its citizenry has led our great nation to consider and settle for agriculture as a venture that has the muscle to sustain the economic demands of the people in particular and the nation at large.
The consensus for agriculture wouldn’t have been achieved had it not been experimented in the past and proven to be a worthy mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. That of course may not have been far from the fact that majority of the agricultural produce by Nigerians were locally patronized and the rest exported to the outside world.
The recognition of the locally produced foods by Nigerians at home, forced investors to give exceptional attention to the quality of products turned out at the end of the day which in turn, earned them international status thus their enlistment as export products.
No doubt, from past national leaders of Nigeria, efforts had been made to draw attention to locally made goods. These efforts were captured in series of ban policies on imported goods which are also produced locally. There present administration of President Muhammed Buhari, did more to ban the importation of major food items that could be sourced locally.
Prominent among these bans on importation include; Poultry meat, fish and rice, a development that encouraged local farmers to intensify effort and desire for land. No doubt with this policy strictly executed with all sincerity of purpose food will not only be made available on the tables of Nigerians, it would also earn more foreign reserve for the country, develop the individual farmers, improve the Gross Domestic Product of the country, while repositioning the nation’s economy on a positive note.
Unfortunately, two years into the administration of the present government, the Nigerian farmer is still dragging feet and unable to define his destination.
Apart from struggling to thrive in an unfriendly investment climate that abhors development and industrialization, he also contends with the risk of having his produce suffocate in his hands for lack of patronage. The Nigerian farmer has become the proverbial errand boy that was given salt and let out alone in the rain.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the ban policy by this administration could help a great deal in securing locally made food items, but this can only be achieved with strict compliance. What strategy has been put in place to ensure its implementation? Two years down the line, is there any evaluation of the policy to see how well it is carried out and what positive result it has yielded? These and many more questions still beg for answers.
The farmer in Rivers State is not better of. Apart from the popular bottle-neck in accessing loans which are tied to certificate of occupancy that is not easily gotten by the poor, his cost of production appears to top those of his other colleagues in neighbouring states. For instance, the poultry farmer in Rivers State does not only grapple with the case of high feed and drug costs, his colleagues from Owerri, Enugu, Delta and Ibandan flood his backyard with poultry produce, produced at a lesser cost which they sell far below his cost price thus rendering his goods non-saleable.
He is, therefore, forced to sell at the dictate of the foreign sellers to his detriment. This situation has led to the abandonment of many farm projects by their owners in the state. This condition if not checked, will not augur well for the farmer and is capable of truncating the diversification agenda of the present administration.
We hope that the presidential committee, constituted by the Federal Government to “unravel challenges of doing business and proffer solution” would be able to capture this great challenge.
This can also be fixed by sincerely tightening the borders against the importation of the banned goods with a view to improving the qualities of locally made products that meet international standard.