More investment, less yields –

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With the government’s support in 2018, which included credit, agriculture made a strong showing resulting in a rise in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), DANIEL ESSIET reports

The dwindling oil price led to a renewed focus on agriculture as the engine for economic growth in 2018.

Compared to other sectors, there were attempts to boost agriculture productivity to enable the sector  play a major role in raising real incomes of the rural poor, thereby reducing poverty.

Experts said increased opportunities in the sector could boost income for the rural population through better livestock production, rural cottage industries, and high value crops, among others.

Speaking with The Nation, Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) President Dr. Victor Iyama said the agriculture sector recorded growth due to commercialisation, expansion of irrigation, and availability of fertiliser and seeds.

Iyama said rice was by far the most important agricultural commodity last year.

According to him, efforts to support small-scale famers through training and improved access to credit helped boost domestic rice production and the overall performance of the agriculture industry.

The Anchor Borrower’s Programme (ABP), a scheme created by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has helped to improve the commercial sustainability of smallholder rice farmers.

By far the most important agricultural activity inNigeria, according to him, was the production of ricepaddy, largely under irrigation in north, andupland areas elsewhere in the country.

Over all, rice production increased by about 10 per cent.

Iyama noted that with changes in government polices, the  production of rice and yeilds have increased.

Grown year round in major parts of the country, he said rice is the main staple food. In most cases, its processing is carried on small-scale mills.

The challenge, according to rice farmer, Rotimi Williams, was that some mills have not been upgraded. The causes are capital and credit constraints, lack of spare parts, and inefficient management.

Among the most important individual crops were  onions and plantains. An upward trend was seen for vegetables and fruits, and miscellaneous crops.

IFAD-CASP Projects for states

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh at Makasauro village in Katsina State performed the flag off of erosion prone, farm-connected market roads and rehabilitation of degraded rangeland, cutting across  seven states in the Savannah Belt of the country.

The benefiting communities implemented under the IFAD-Climate Change Adaptation and Agribusiness Support Programme (CASP) are spread across Borno, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara states. The project rehabilitated 22 rural roads with support structures, such as drainages, culverts, rails and drifts covering a distance of 59.09km across the participating states.

Ogbeh declared that the Federal Government is giving impetus to rural development because of the critical role that rural infrastructure play in unlocking the vast and enormous potential of the rural areas.

Appeals

World Bank-Assisted programme, the Agro-Processing, Productivity Enhancement & Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) held its second project implementation support mission with teams from the World Bank, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development( FMARD), relevant agencies and partners, State Project Coordinators and key stakeholders are in attendance.

The ministry’s Ministry Permanent Secretary, Dr. Abdulkadir Mu’azu said the Federal Government is committed to the project, which aims to develop all the value chains of the smallholder farmers, who represent the predominant number in food production, adding that the APPEALS programme can help tackle food insecurity, poverty and unemployment and should, therefore, be of strategic importance to us all.

Crop Insurance

So much was not achieved in this area as much was not done to evaluate the performance of insurance companies. Farmers believe a lot has to be done to establish a functional crop insurance scheme and to enable companies provide effective services and enough coverage for crop losses during the farming seasons.

Electronic market place

Startups got support to establish e-agriculture markets. E-platforms saw lot of improvement during the year, including payment facility by traders, mobile payment facility by traders, enhanced on mobile app, such as gate entry and payment through mobile, integration of farmer’s database.

Challenges

The agriculture sector, which employs about half the population, has been roiled by what economists call “downside shocks”. It’s been a problem of output.

While the prices farmers receive for cassava crashed because of glut. Farmers in the rural economy had to contend with higher rural wage growth. Due to intensive involvement of labour in different farm operations, the cost of production of many crops is quite high.

At present, not enough n farmers are adapting farm mechanisation. Although the sale of tractors in cannot be taken as the only measure of farm mechanisation but to a great extent it reflects the level of mechanisation.

The Group Managing Director, Niji Group, Kola Adeniji, said there was a need to enhance farm mechanisation.

The sector also witnessed some of the worst times, as input prices increased. This makes the majority of growers miserable, as they faced problems in dealing with the situation.

Most farmers said they needed help on some fronts. Iyama said farmers needed lower input costs, better irrigation, direct market access and cold chains to reduce waste.

At the farm gate, crop farmers face high costs of production, with higher variable input costs due to higher innate soil fertility. Farmers usemore fertiliseron their land in most places to generate comparable yields. Also the cost of transporting crops to markets, primarily by truck, was higher on a per tonne basis formost farmers across the country because of bad roads.

Northeast

According to reports, agricultural activities in the Northeast  were disrupted by insecurity and displacement. It kept many from engaging fully in cultivation. Conflicts continue to impact the region as fatal attacks by Boko Haram insurgents led to continued displacement and disruption in economic activity. The conflicts affected cultivation activities and pastoralists’herd movements.

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