For Nigerians not to experience hunger and food shortage this year, stakeholders in the sector have identified insecurity and high interest rate as some factors that need to be tackled even as Nigeria has signed the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which started on January 1, 2021
The stakeholders in separate interviews with Daily Independent on their expectations for the year said the major factors that will make or mar the country’s progress in agriculture is the issue of insecurity.
They said that the success or failure in the sector depends on both the government and the people and that the government should do more to assist the farmers this year as they really had a tough time last year due to the COVID-19 lockdown and other issues that affected them last year.
Ezekiel Ibrahim Mam, National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), said the year is dicey that success or failure depends on both the government and the people.
He said the Federal government announced a very laudable budget and policies, that if these are transparently implemented, it is hopeful that the country will come out of the woods.
Mam emphasised that the interest rate as obtained now cannot attract meaningful investors to turnaround the economy, that it should not be more than three percent.
“While I totally agree that Agriculture is key to move us out of recession, I continue to emphasise that the interest rate as obtained today cannot attract meaningful investors to turn around the economy of this nation.
The PAN President also said that the government should support existing farmers and liaise with all product associations that their success will automatically attract young farmers.
“but a situation where you train someone for six weeks who has never gone to farm and you give him or her a lot of money without a mentor or monitoring and evaluation I think the success story will not be encouraging.
Speaking further, he said the emphasis should be on production be it agriculture, manufacturing, engineering among others where different segments of the populace are engaged.
He added that the major factors that will make or mar the progress is the issue of insecurity, as people cannot move freely as a result of banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, and server crime.
“Air transport is beyond the reach of an average citizen all these are factors to be looked in to for the country to overcome the numerous challenges we are facing more so that we have signed the African free trade agreement.
“As for my fellow citizens my appeal is that we should believe in our country. Let us all work assiduously to create a better future for our children, grandchildren and generations to come. Life is about leaving behind a good legacy. “There is a saying that soldier come soldier go barracks remains. “Governments will come and go but the country remains.
“Let us all work to build institutions and structures that will guarantee the corporate existence of our great country, Nigeria the pride of black people in the world,” he added.
He thereby, appealed to both the government and the people that food security should be a number one priority for all.
“Number one success is our ability to feed ourselves. Government should list items that have comparative advantages and ban their importation. We should import items that are critical to our industry and the ones we don’t have enough or that we have short supply locally,” he said.
Professor Lateef Sanni, Project Manager, BASICS II International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Development) Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNAAB),noted that the year will be a year of consolidations for agricultural sectors.
He said it is expected that the beneficiaries of the announced credit facilities by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and other banks in 2020 should have bumper harvest and sales in 2021.
Sanni said technically, crop farmers will patronise quality seeds from the newly released varieties, that IITA- BASICS II Project will backstop foundation and commercial cassava seed enterprises.
Foluso Adams, General Secretary of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Lagos state chapter stated that it is hoped that prices of commodities will come down with the expectations that the government will open the grains reserve as they claim there is maize.
The fear according to him is that food security is being threatened because of the attack and killings by the insurgents and also the herders and farmers clash as well.
“The collapse of the Dam in Niger state that made it run over farms will also affect food production. The Kebbi issue is also a problem where the rice farm was also washed away almost at harvest time.
He added that insecurity is also a problem that the bandits and kidnappers are making the road unsafe, as he also stated that the COVID-19 issue cannot be overlooked.
He also pointed out the effect of climate change which according to him will hinder abundance of food and a threat to increase in prices of commodities.
Oba Dokun Thompson, the Oloni of Eti-Oni noted that it is a good thing that he African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has finally kicked off at the beginning of this year.
“It is a process and I know we will make our mistakes, learn from them and move along only then would we be able to achieve in building the largest free market in the world.
He said the situation around the world has created opportunities and new ways of doing things and agriculture is perhaps the strongest, but yet to be fully exploited sector in the continent.
“My expectation is that Africa will take advantage of this great opening to redefine the continent in a manner that begins to add value to our raw materials to build wealth for transformational purposes.
He said the challenge with the pandemic seems unpredictable, but projected that through purposeful and focused determination, “we would have been able to address any shortcomings with AfCFTA and the continent will be in a great position by the end of the year and would have put all necessary soft infrastructure in place to achieve value addition and also develop trading with one another like never before.
“one of my farmers who is also an aggregator for cocoa bean exporters called to enquire about the increased lockdown in England wanting to know when it would end and I said it has been said mid-February, but perhaps it may last till March end no one can tell for now.
“The reason for the enquiry was that the exporters and wholesale buyers were not as enthusiastic as they would normally be at this time of the year as their trade is also dependent on a healthy economy in Europe and the United States.
Adding, “the going rate for cocoa within the last three to four weeks has dropped by about N200 per kg first because of the erratic fluctuation in the Naira/Dollar rate and secondly due to the uncertainties brought about by the third wave of COVID-19 last month, and I said to him this was the very reason we began the Cocoa Festival seven years ago even though they seem not to understand the full import of it.
“The whole idea behind it was the Cocoa Renaissance Initiative which I spoke about all the time to bring about that consciousness so that we can also begin to create value locally across Africa as a way of not being in this situation where our produce will be stranded and begging for buyers who may never come due to unforeseen circumstances.”