How Agric Is Bouncing Back

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Nigeria Agriculture, Under three years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, the agric sector has witnessed a dramatic transformation. The sector looks good to drive the on-going economic diversification. DANIEL ESSIET reports.

Latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that agriculture was one of the largest contributors to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth between 2015-2018.

According to the NBS, agriculture now contributes about 30 per cent to the GDP. The agric sector’s growth was driven by the grains and exports, though other agricultural industries performed strongly. The value of farm exports alone was in excess of $20 billion, with experts expressing hope that the sector will be better in the coming years. Their hope and expectations were hinged on increased investments by governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The Chairman of Rice Farmers Association in Kebbi State, Alhaji Sahabi Augie, said Nigeria’s agriculture, in the Last three years, has been on the cusp of dramatic expansion. Given the rich harvest recorded by rice farmers between last year and now, he said many of them are smiling to the banks

Augie added that millers and traders from Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara, Lagos, Maiduguri, Niger and Adamawa, have been coming with trucks and trailers to buy rice from the farmers, adding that this has led to an increase in the price of the commodity beyond farmers’ expectations. This development, he said, has enriched farmers.

Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back
Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back

Augie said many farmers were engaged to produce rice under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers programme. He commended the government’s determination through the CBN to make Nigeria one of the largest rice producers and exporters in the world, making her less dependent on revenue from the oil & gas industry.

He said the CBN, working with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), has made rice production a successful business. According to him, the government’s resolve to increase production was one of the solutions to achieving rice self-sufficiency.

However, experts say the quality of local rice must be improved to make it capable of competing favorably with the imported variety. This was as the CBN said it spent N55 billion on boosting rice production through the Anchor Borrowers’ programme in the last two years. At least, 2.5 million metric tonnes has been added to the already 2.5 million metric tonnes Nigeria was producing.

Following the success, CBN said it will expand the scope of intervention this year to achieve 3.5 million metric tonnes of rice production through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme by the end of year.

Nigeria’s agric promotion policy 2016-2020

One of the most promising ground work done by the government towards achieving food security was the introduction of the Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020. “The Green Alternative” was the outcome of an intensive consultative process starting in November 2015 through April 2016, and involving multiple stakeholders.

Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back
Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back

From farmer groups to investors to processors to lenders to civil servants to academics, many stakeholders provided detailed input, commentary, and support. Within its overall set of policy principles, the Federal Government concentrated on providing an enabling environment for stakeholders at federal and state level to play their distinctive roles.

The policy emphasis was on providing a conducive legislative and agricultural knowledge framework, macro policies, security enhancing physical infrastructure and institutional mechanisms for coordination and enhancing access to adequate inputs, finance, information on innovation, agricultural services and markets.

Turning the country’s agric sector into a robust one has been a major development target for the government. To help achieve this, the government has been working on improving the national seed situation and the strategic grain reserve. The government has taken measures to provide for the regulation and control of all seed issues, protect consumers and dealers and also promote a responsible and productive seed industry.

With collaboration with the National Seeds Council, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh strengthened the agro-dealer layer between the farmers and the large seed companies. This resulted in improved local availability and affordability of inputs.

Access to agric mechanization

The Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is partnering with global agricultural equipment manufacturers – John Deere Tractors and the Nigerian Agricultural Mechanization & Equipment Leasing Company (NAMEL) to improve farmers’ access to mechanization and increase agric productivity.

Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back
Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back

Under the partnership, the S.M.A.R.T Model Mechanization Farm is a technologically driven agricultural project that offers integrated solutions for smallholder farmers; mechanized agriculture for improved yields; access to finance; reliability and technology/training; and designed to make mechanized farming available & affordable to farmers especially the smallholder farmer who cannot afford to own tractors and other agricultural equipment at affordable rates.

The partnership was expected to help encourage more youths’ participation in agric, increase food production, boost job creation and promote local content in agric mechanization through the establishment of training centres and spare parts assembly plants.

Ogbeh described mechanisation as a key strategy to attaining Nigeria’s food security target and self-sufficiency. The Minister welcomed the group to Nigeria and thanked them for their willingness to invest in the country’s agric sector.

He emphasised the importance of ensuring high quality standard of equipment designed for the Nigerian farmer, taking into consideration the structure of the soil and climatic conditions.

Credit guarantees to the rescue

One agency that has been on the campaign to boost the nation’s agro-industrial revolution is Nigeria incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lendingn (NIRSAL). Its Managing Director/CEO, Aliyu Abdulhameed, said the organisation was doing a lot to reduce credit risks, increase lending, and drive investment across the entire Nigerian agric value chain.

Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back
Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back

At Institute of Directors Nigeria’s Members Night in Lagos, Abdulhameed said NIRSAL offered commercial lenders a sense of shared risks by providing up to 75 per cent credit guarantees. So far, he said the organisation has issued over N67 billion in credit guarantees to cover loans by the commercial banks.

To tackle the challenge of access to land, the NIRSAL CEO said the organisation was aggregating farmlands in agriculturally-endemic areas into geo-clusters of 10,000 hectares, further broken down into geo-cooperatives of 250 hectares.

Farmland aggregation was matched with coordinated farmer aggregation through out-grower schemes and other pooling mechanisms. This, according to him, will enable NIRSAL to reach smallholder farmers with support, comprising training, mentoring and follow-up to ensure compliance with good agronomic practices, from input quality control to harvesting in a controlled and coordinated manner.

Furthermore, he said farmers are aggregately positioned to enjoy credit, mechanization, irrigation, transportation, infrastructure and other support services promoted by NIRSAL. This supports large scale deployment of interventions and solutions and provides the benefits of economies of scale.

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Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back
Nigeria Agriculture: How Agric Is Bouncing Back

According to Abdulhameed, NIRSAL has made significant investments in technological solutions and innovations in the fixing of broken agricultural value chains and facilitation of agribusinesses.

One of its flagship innovative solutions is the FAM-SMART model. The CEO explained that NIRSAL was using Geographical Information Systems and Pattern Recognition Systems to undertake a field mapping of agriculturally-endemic regions across the country.

Besides aiding aggregation and coordination, he said the mapping helps in defining the locations for NIRSAL support, minimizing the risk of investing in areas that are not agriculturally viable.