Legislative backing required to drive agribusiness, Policy inconsistency has almost become a norm in Nigeria. In agriculture, this has meant ill thought-out export/import restrictions. Particularly in importation, these restrictions have, more often than not, resulted in local markets getting flooded with foreign alternatives of locally-produced commodities/ products. The implication has usually been local producers suffering losses as the imported alternatives enter the market far below the market prices and local alternatives are unable to compete.
Even at the production level, fake fertilisers and seeds are frequently sold to farmers which, instead of boosting their production, end up with even worse results. This continues to be a regular occurrence because there is no law guiding production, sale and distribution of either seeds or fertilisers in the country, making it possible for unscrupulous elements to take advantage of the naivety of many farmers.
Getting enabling laws in Nigeria is an arduous task. Currently two bills – the Seed Bill and Fertiliser Quality Control Bill – are awaiting passage at the National Assembly. The Fertiliser Bill has passed the public hearing stage and awaits a third hearing before parliament makes a decision on it. However, like the Seed Bill which is also awaiting passage, the Fertiliser Bill requires more purposeful attention so as to create a legislative framework that will enhance agricultural productivity.
A third bill, the National Agribusiness Investment Plan for Food and Nutrition Security in Nigeria Bill, is being drafted by the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) for presentation this year, as a measure to remove some of the major constraints facing private sector agribusiness investments in Nigeria. These include lack of affordable long-term financing, lack of government coordination; policy inconsistencies, lack of supply security, inadequate public sector infrastructure investments, lack of applied food and agricultural research science and technology transfer capacity, among others.
Having requisite legislations to drive agribusiness in Nigeria will “give a firm policy directive for consistency and adherence to international practice, and also for effective regulative framework to also enforce minimum standard practices and funding”, says Tunji Owoeye, group managing director, Elephant Group Plc. It will also make for “stability of interventions and for a legislative protection of government medium and long term planning”.
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With appropriate legislations in place, locally-produced food will be able to compete favourably against foreign alternatives which often enter the market at lower prices. Local production will also be subject to adherence on quality and standards, and inefficient supply chain processes will be addressed, amongst other potential benefits.