Agriculture Stakeholders Differ On Economic Growth

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 Nigeria’s economy is still rated as the largest in Africa by international rating agencies, as data released recently by the National Bureau of Statistics also showed that the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) report for 2019 indicated that the agriculture sector recorded a growth rate. 

Some have attributed the growth to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) economic recovery plans, which comprise its various fiscal initiatives like the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, restriction of foreign exchange for the importation of certain food items, outright ban on importation of items that can be locally produced, among other steps by the CBN to encourage food production. 

Stakeholders in the agriculture sector, in separate interviews with DAILY INDEPENDENT, stated that more people are now coming in the sector, which has in one way or the other contributed meaningfully to the nation’s economy. 

Wale Oyekoya, an agriculturist, said that Nigeria’s economy is still rated the largest in Africa due to the nation’s uncontrollable soaring population of over two hundred million, adding that the country’s huge population is a big plus economically for goods and services. 

He said that land border’s closure is another reason for expansion of the nation’s economy because manufacturers and agro-processors are able to increase their production output coupled with interest developed by the government to improve on the agriculture sector. 

“Farmers are able to sell their products with less competition from unwholesome foreign goods. We are able to keep our foreign reserves with less importation. Our economy could have been larger than this if the government had prioritised our decayed infrastructural facilities such as power, roads, security and transportation,” he said. 

Dr. Victor Iyama, National President of Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), stated that the increase in activities in the non-oil sector is responsible for the growth because more and more people are going into that area now. 

“I strongly believe that, that is what is responsible for the growth,” he said. 

Dr. Femi Oke, Chairman, All Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos State chapter, noted that the country is just getting itself on the right track, adding that the fact that Nigeria has returned to agriculture has really contributed meaningfully to the nation’s economy. 

“All the policies and agenda of the government for agriculture now have been very helpful, especially the single interest rate, which the government has just introduced. Now that we have gotten some of these things done, it will automatically contribute positively to the sector. 

“Also on the border closure, Nigerian rice farmers and livestock farmers are now happy to go into production, which we have witnessed in the few months that the border has remained been closed. Nigerians are very happy now to go into the production, processing and marketing for these products. There is no doubt about this, it has contributed to the growth and made the Nigerian economy stable.” 

Speaking further, he said that there is no way the border will not be reopened. 

“But so far, we have seen some achievements in that regards, especially for the past seven months now. Every sector in that area says they are very happy for the closure of the border. The GDP has gone up, we now focus on our local production, but we still want the border to be closed for more time so that by the time it is reopened, we must have been used to our locally-produced items,” he added. 

Henry Olatujoye, former president, National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN), noted that Nigeria has the largest population in Africa, which translates to a big market force to reckon with, adding that “despite our low production cycle, we are always willing to buy products that are considered good for us.” 

He said that Nigeria will continue to be the largest economy due to the nation’s trading capacity but it has to be translated to the per capital income of the citizen. “Our per capital income is still very low compared to other nations in Africa, thus promoting poverty. 

Olatujoye stated further that all the government’s policies such as the border closure, ban on importation, lower interest rate for agriculture, among others, are to protect the economy. 

“You will understand that before now, it was difficult for us to monitor and regulate what comes into the country by way of imports, but the border closure has indeed helped to checkmate that to some extent. The ban on importation of certain food items is to first promote the production of such items in the country, create enabling environment for further investments and create a balanced market driven by demand and supply. 

“This, I believe, may create investment drive to meeting local demands for such items. Meanwhile, the Anchor Borrower to me has nothing to do with our rating. I think it is more about production enhancement,” he said. 

Emeka Okereke, an economist, stated that it is expected that Nigeria is the most populated country in Africa and because of the population, Nigeria is supposed to be exceeding what it is doing now; but because most people are not productive, that is why we are still hanging where we are. 

“If every population production age is contributing to our GDP, it will be higher than what it is. Also, how has it impacted on our livelihood? It is neither here nor there. The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme may have added some values to our agricultural growth, no two ways about that I agreed; we have made some progress about that, it has equally helped,” he said. 

“We in the private sector from our preview are still advising that the management of Forex needs to be revisited again as much as the CBN has tried to manage the Forex market, but the duality in its operation is still questionable. For me, I wonder how we can continue to sustain that?” he said. 

However, Nnimmo Bassey, Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, said the fact that Nigeria’s economy is still rated as the largest in Africa is a commentary on the sad state of the national economic situation on the continent. 

“It is nothing to crow about but rather something to cry over. Recall that Nigeria’s economy first took a leap over South Africa in 2014 mostly because of the rebasing of the GDP. That fact underscored the truth that GDP does not measure the true state of any economy. It is a defective measure that even those who invented it cautioned against wide application. 

“Sadly, it still rules economic thought and policies today. Of what value is an economic measure if the people do not enjoy the basic necessities of life, if we are the poverty capital of the world, if life expectancy is so pitiably low? 

“As I said earlier, neither the closure of the border nor any of the other measures is responsible. The world is simply saying that Africa is in trouble if this is the best we can show,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the NBS report shows that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 2.55 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared to the fourth quarter of 2018, which recorded a growth rate of 2.38 per cent. This represents an increase of 0.17 per cent points and an increase of 0.27 per cent points when compared with the third quarter of 2019. 

The strong fourth quarter 2019 growth rate also represented the highest quarterly growth performance since the 2016 recession. 

Overall, this resulted in annual 2019 real growth rate of 2.27 per cent, compared to 1.91 per cent in 2018. Quarter on quarter, real GDP growth was 5.59 per cent. 

The agriculture sector grew by 13.80 per cent year-on-year in nominal terms in Q4 2019, showing a decline of -4.78 per cent points from the same quarter of 2018. Compared to the preceding quarter’s growth rate of 14.88 per cent, the Q4 2019 rate represented a decline of -1.07% points. Crop production remained the major driver of the sector. 

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