The agricultural sector in Nigeria has made significant progress, but the ongoing attacks of shepherd farmers and the devastation of floods have disrupted economic growth, writes Taiwo Hassan.
The productivity of the agricultural sector in Nigeria since taking office as President Muhammad Bukhari can be described as mixed. Since his administration came to power, he has demonstrated his zeal and passion for a turning point in the sector with a large amount of agricultural policy, which was to return Nigeria as an agro-union country.
Undoubtedly, the steps taken by the Bukhari administration to rethink the transformation of the country's agriculture with the help of very effective policies have been widely discussed and adopted throughout the world.
But unfortunately, despite the support and the role that the government plays in ensuring that Nigeria returns to become the nation of the food basket, in some circles it is still felt that events in this sector have been adapted to meet a specific agenda and not to the whole nation.
Since independence in 1960, agriculture has been the backbone of the economy, providing the largest amount of foreign currency inflows into the country. In addition, according to official statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), it was about 63 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).
Government revenues from the sector were then obtained from exports of major cash crops, such as rubber, cocoa, palm oil, cashews, peanuts and cotton, among others.
Despite the low prices for agricultural products that were affected at the time, the sector sought, constantly supporting the country's economy. In fact, the sector then was the largest employer of labor in the country. Farmers who ventured into agriculture were treated with respect, as the contribution of their productivity to farms ensured the safety and security of food for the Nigerian population.
However, having assumed the presidency in 2015, Bukhari promised to introduce a diversification program that identified agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors to stabilize a heavy economy amid falling crude oil prices on the international market.
In particular, the government has developed an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and other strategies aimed at stopping the steady decline of the national economy.
Following this policy, Nigeria’s agriculture is now the toast of prominent industrialists, commercial farmers, foreign and local investors, and agro-allied industries, as they ventured into various aspects of agriculture to ensure adequate food security and safety for Nigerians.
One of the most effective policies initiated by the government since independence was rice policy, which aims to outline the sufficiency of rice in the country.
Indeed, a paradigm shift occurred in the country's agriculture with the intensity of local rice production for Nigerians.
In particular, the government has set ambitious goals to ensure that the country becomes self-sufficient in rice production, and also becomes a net exporter of the product after two years.
Undoubtedly, the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has opened up many opportunities in the country.
Thanks to the ABP program, mass production of local rice was carried out with the aim of stopping the import of foreign rice both at land borders and in ports.
However, the self-sufficiency program in rice production led to the emergence of rice plants in the country in accordance with the government's diversification program, to make agriculture a center for investors.
However, one of the most volatile agricultural policies adopted by the federal government over the past 58 years of independence was the announcement of its intention to establish pasture reserves in some parts of the country. This caused mixed reactions and led to the fact that illegal shepherd farmers ran across the country, leading to food shortages and the abandonment of agricultural land by local farmers.
These events have hampered the growth and development of agriculture and the economy as a whole in terms of food productivity and safety of life / property.
In general, pasture reserves in Nigeria are areas designated for use by pastoralists and are intended to become the focus of livestock development.
In addition, the ongoing devastating floods in some parts of the country have led to homelessness, death and property, food shortages, destroyed agricultural land and many other problems.
Indeed, the stories of destruction, after heavy rain throughout the country, in recent weeks have been very susceptible to the environment, as precipitated rainfall caused havoc on homes, lives, properties, and agricultural land in some states, such as Kogi, Enugu, Anambra, Zamfara, Ogun and others.
However, the aspect of the disaster on the country's agricultural products was so alarming as a result of farmers ’protests that they lost millions of naira for flooding.
In particular, the risk of agricultural production associated with rainfall variability impedes investments in improved agricultural technology and climate-resistant agriculture.
Despite this, ongoing rainfall in Nigeria is already leading to famine in some states, because farmers have been laid off from their agricultural lands under floods, and the possibility of harvesting for consumption is under threat.
Saga of saga
In the same way, the awkward news that Nigerian pits were exported to the United States and the United Kingdom was rejected at the time of entry.
This development was met by mixed reactions between stakeholders in agriculture and Nigerians, who condemned the refusal as a whole.
This once again demonstrated the true state of the Nigerian market for agricultural products, especially with regard to the production of yams, that everything is not so good when exporting the country.
In particular, on June 29, Nigeria began exporting yams to Europe and the United States as part of diversifying its oil-dependent economy and earning the much-needed currency to counteract the effects of the collapse of crude oil on the international market.
The initial goal of the yam program was to obtain foreign exchange in the region of $ 10 billion a year over the next four years by the federal government.
In addition to all these arguments, nothing was more embarrassing than the rumor that the 72 tons of pits that left Nigeria through the port of Apapa to the United States last June were also rejected.
Equally, this is a booming rice smuggling on the porous land borders of the country, which is a matter of government concern.
The federal government raised the alarm that smugglers always brought more than a million tons of rice from the Republic of Benin across the country's land borders during the Yuletide period.
For stakeholders in agriculture, there is a dangerous economic loss of rice smuggled into the country across the land borders of a porous nation. Indeed, they stated that the high level of smuggling led to Naira’s billions in losses for the nation and investors.
In addition, they said they also made rice traders to close down their businesses in the country, including laying off thousands of workers in the rice sector.
58 years of independence of Nigeria were difficult in all aspects. The federal government urgently needs to examine the crises of shepherds and farmers and start policies to combat food shortages, the high cost of food, poverty, floods and smuggling.