Farmers, value chain actors and experts have examined most of the issues affecting the growth of the nation’s agricultural sector.
After a section with newsmen, some of the stakeholders highlighted some of the major gaps that are affecting agriculture in Nigeria and how they could be bridged.
Dr Aliyu Samaila, an agronomist based in Abuja, told Daily Trust on Sunday that gaps exist especially in the inputs sector, noting that good seeds are hard to come by, while mechanization is also limited.
He said the attention agriculture is getting presently narrows some of the gaps but only for a few commodities like rice, maize and soybean that are in high demand.
“In these crops, access to good seeds and mechanization to ease production and increase hectarage are what the farmers need. That last-mile service is still non- existent in most places. A lot of farmers just plant grains which impact negatively on their yields,” Dr Samaila said.
The expert stressed that because most land preparation is done manually, there is a limit to the area farmers can cultivate thus limiting the final output.
“Another gap is the harvest and post-harvest activities. These are mostly done manually and the resultant effect is heavy losses or produce contamination.
“There must be conscious effort by individuals, government and even farmer groups to make the small-holder machines like power tillers and threshers available. They are not too expensive and can be easily bought with proper financing arrangement.
“For seeds, seed companies must emulate their fertilizer and agrochemicals counterparts to take seeds to where they are needed. They must also liaise with research institutes in the production of new germ-plasm to maintain the vigour of existing varieties. This will be in addition to developing new, higher yielding ones,” he stated.
Speaking for the aquaculture industry, Oloye Rotimi Olibale, the National President of Catfish and Allied Fish Farmers Association of Nigeria, dwelled on two issues along the value chain that have great potentials, but are neglected.
He expressed worry that marketing is an aspect that was not structured in any form, adding that this was an aspect where investors could come in and make a big difference.
“In respect of fresh fish, infrastructures can be developed for purchase and collection of fish from farmers/farmer groups, process same, by taking away the intestines, before blast freezing, packaging and distribution to various towns and cities, using the distribution chain link of the importers of frozen fish, who the government claimed are into commercial fish farming across the country.
“Also processed and dried farmed fishes, can be made available for consumers across the country, if investors, come into this aspect.
“Investors can engaged fish processors with standard facilities to process and brand for them, and smoked fish which they can in turn distribute and sell to recoup their investment,” the CAFFAN national president said.
He said transportation is an area where private investors can come in and play a major role. Mr Olibale noted that “the idea of transportation of live fish with water, is cumbersome and expensive”.
“In other climes, live fish are transported without water, but with a modern technology, whereby cold mist is made available and sprayed on the fish, while in transit. Fishes in this condition will get to malls and depots in their fresh state and attract premium price in the market.
“Like all other aspects of value chain, more jobs, wealth, good and nutritious fishery products are made available to consumers,” he stressed.
Mr A. D. Ahmed, an agricultural economist, who put serious emphasis on access to quality inputs, noted that lack of “access to ready markets deprives the farmers of the monetary gains they would have derived from their toil.
“Middlemen take undue advantage of this situation and buy farm produce at very cheap prices from farmers. Some of the produce also get wasted if not sold, especially the perishables. Lack of access roads to transport the produce from the farms to the markets where they can be sold at better prices compounds the local farmers’ problems,” he noted.
Similarly, Alhaji Mundu Mohammed, a commercial farmer in Abuja, reiterated that some value chain actors mopped up grains like maize and soybeans for feeds and to control prices of produce even when they were sold at their lowest prices by the farmers.
On his part, Prince Chinedu Asuzu, MD of CASUZi Farms Limited, Kubwa, Abuja who is also president of the Catfish and Poultry Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd, said lack of electricity created a major impediment for value chain activities in the sector.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while speaking on the ready market recently, said government was considering the introduction of guaranteed minimum price in the country.
According to him, farmers must be encouraged to stay in production to ensure that their labour yielded good financial results.
On access to finance, he said plans were underway to ensure that farmers owned shares in the reformed Bank of Agriculture where loans could be accessed at 3% interest rate.
Chief Ogbeh added that rural roads were also been opened up across the country to ensure easy access to market by farmers.