Faced with dwindling oil revenue, the nation is gradually returning to agriculture. In the outgoing year, many states collaborated in agricultural ventures, which are now yielding dividends. DANIEL ESSIET writes.
It was another tough year for the economy.
Economic growth was slower. The main reasons for the relative slow down are not unique to Nigeria.The economy suffered from dwindling oil price, slowdown in infrastructural development, stagnation in improving power supply and higher borrowing costs involved in seeking funds for development.
Notwithstanding, the agriculture sector offered attractive business opportunities, such as high-value products for domestic markets, aquaculture, vegetables and agro commodities, for the international market. There have also been successes in traditional crops with new demands.
Lagos-Kebbi Rice Project
Lagos and Kebbi state governments went into a partnership aimed at enhancing food security as well as boosting agro-economic activities in the two states. Specifically, the deal is geared towards improving rice production.
The project has yielded results with bags of Lake rice rolled out to Lagosians at N12,000 per 50 kg towards the Yuletide celebrations. Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and his Kebbi State counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu launched the much-anticipated Lagos-Kebbi Rice christened LAKE RICE, saying that the partnership which culminated into the launch was not only designed to ensure food security but showcase the ability of Nigeria to become a producing nation.
Sales of the rice were made at all the 57 Local Government Areas (LG >?>?./ ./ As) and Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) in Lagos to ensure proper distribution. Part of the agreement is the establishment of a modern and commercially viable rice milling complex to be located in Lagos, with the capacity to process and mill 20 tonnes of rice per hour just as the finished product would be known as ‘Laskeb’ rice. Already, Kebbi has become a rice hub with the bountiful harvest recorded by farmers during this year’s dry season rice farming.
Kebbi State has become a new haven to conventional, local millers and rice traders from Sokoto, Kano, Zamfara, EbonyI, Lagos, Maiduguri, Niger and other parts of the country. Also, it has continued to witness the influx of rice buyers from Niger Republic, Benin and other neighbouring countries.
In August, the Federal Government inaugurated a roadmap for the agriculture sector, tagged: “The Green Alternative: Agriculture Promotion Policy, 2016-2020.”
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the vision was to revive agric sector to boost food production in the country.
According to Ogbeh, the policy will serve as the new fulcrum for economic diversification, inclusive growth and sustainable development in agric sector.
“The launch of the `Green Alternative’ is an attestation that the change that the overwhelming majority of Nigerians canvassed and openly welcomed by giving Muhammadu Buhari a resounding victory in the last presidential election is here. “In this policy, you will see us navigating through the agricultural terrain, trucking on virtually every aspect, we launched on the human element.
“We will reflect on years of neglect where agriculture was seen as a refuge for the wretched and unsophisticated,” Ogbeh said. The minister explained further that the emphasis on ”Green” would capture the essence, spirit and orientation of the new policy/strategy document. “The emphasis on green is deliberate; it is to underscore, not only the imperative of building a strong, vibrant and resilient economy, but also a green refreshing, generating, transformative-agriculture-led economy.
“It is to ensure mutual complementary between efficient, effective and productive agricultural production, system and processes on one hand and environmental sustainability,” Ogbeh said.
He stated that the policy had five major strategic driving forces namely, achievement of self-sufficiency and sustainable food security, reduction in import dependence and economic losses, particularly through value addition.
Other, he said, were stimulation of agro-exports for enhanced foreign exchange earnings, enhancement of wealth and job creation, especially provision of employment opportunities for the teeming youths. The minister also said achievement of economic diversification to make the economy less oil-dependent was among the driving forces of the green policy.
Ogbeh said that through the policy, farmers would have access to land, soil fertility, information and knowledge, inputs, production management, storage, processing, marketing and trade, including access to finance.
Others are promoting agribusiness and ensuring investment development, institutional setting and roles, youth and women, infrastructure, research and innovation and nutrition security.
Ogbeh conceded that the times were hard and that there is severe shortage of food, noting that Nigeria imports much of its food.
Identified as likely to hinder policies put in place, are the menacing activities of herdsmen, that is slowly spreading all over the country, and Ogbeh disclosed that his talks with the Ministry of the Interior is to set up a unit in the Civil Defence Corps dedicated to guarding investments in agriculture.
Ogbeh believes the permanent solution to this menace, is paddock development or ranching which will put the cattle to pasture and ensure that herdsmen are curtailed from roaming and can pay tax.
The development of export-oriented agriculture in Anambra ,was also one of the key developments leading sector growth and diversification efforts. Across the country, there were a number of large-scale irrigation infrastructure projects that are quickly expanding irrigated land. Increased domestic consumption, exports and investment have led to consistent sector growth over the last six months.
Diversification efforts by large agro-exporting companies have seen the rise of a few promising crops that are quickly climbing to the top of the country’s export list. These include vegetables, food stuff, cashew and cocoa.
CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme
True to his promise that he would revive agriculture by building on the policies of the past administration, President Muhammadu Buhari demonstrated the Federal Government’s commitment to agriculture by kicking off dry season rice and wheat farming in Kebbi State and also launching the N20billion Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), which the Central Bank of Nigeria has set aside for rice farmers across the country.
The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is an initiative of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) aimed at creating an ecosystem to link out-growers (small holder farmers) to local processors. Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele, said the Anchor Borrowers’ programme was designed to create economic linkages between farmers and processors, not only to ensure the output of rice and wheat, but also to bridge the gap between production and consumption.
“Over 200,000 rice and wheat farmers will benefit from the scheme ranging from N150,000 to N250,000 to assist in procuring necessary agricultural input,’’ he said.
In Imo State,the programme helped to bring down the price of rice. A 50kg bag of local rice sold for N13,000 in some states that have embraced the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) ratified the disbursement of about N75 billion as loan to farmers in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) under the aegis of Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing in Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL).
The Head of NIRSAL Project Implementation Office under the Development Finance Department of the CBN, Jude Uzonwanne, explained that the guarantee would be issued to farmers through commercial banks and other financial institutions.
“NIRSAL is a flexible financing tool designed to change the behaviour of financial institutions and would mobilise financing for Nigerian agribusiness by using credit guarantees to address the risk of default,” he said.
Uzonwanne also noted that the programme was created to provide access to finance to farmers by consolidating end-to-end agriculture value chains, such as input producers, farmers, agro dealers, agro processors and industrial manufacturers with agricultural financing value chains – loan product development amongst others.
“The integration is driven by NIRSAL’s five pillars, particularly the Risk Sharing Pillar and the Technical Assistance pillars, such as Risk sharing Facility, allocated 45 billion, Insurance Facility (4.5 billion), Technical assistance facility (9 billion), Agricultural bank rating scheme (1.5 billion), and Bank incentive mechanism (15 billion).The loan guarantee scheme is a public-private sector plan initiated by the apex bank, the Bankers’ Committee and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, to guarantee 75 per cent loans provided by Deposit Money Banks (DPB) to farmers as part of efforts to revitalise the country’s agricultural sector.
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar 111, praised the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Speaking at the kick off of the dry season wheat farming and distribution of wheat seeds as well as other farm input to farmers under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme in Isa Local Government Area of Sokoto State, the Sultan appreciated the CBN for making the dry season farming possible with its support of funds for the programme, saying that the bank’s commitment is worthy of celebration.
Abubakar maintained that the Programme is key to ensuring food security for the nation. The monarch enjoined farmers to continue to be diligent in their farming as oil will only provide funds but will not put food on the table.
Speaking further, the Sultan said there was need for partnership between governments at all a level to evolve solution to end the farmers and herdsmen crisis.
But farmers said the programme needs reforms to achieve more inclusive growth to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity.
The Tuta Absoluta pest is a leaf moth that burrows into the fruits and stems of the tomato plant causing enormous food loss invaded tomato farms this year.
The Federal Government moved into action and proffered solution to the menace.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development worked with Agronet, representatives of Russell, United Kingdom(UK) experts in Tuta Absoluta containment. The intervention programme involved containment packs for 50,000 hectares to be used by tomato producing states, capacity development on the containment solution, surveillance and monitoring in all 774 Local Govt. Areas.
The Federal Government partner ed states and local government areas to ensure a containment of pests and enable farmers to continue sustainable production of the fruits for local consumption and provide raw materials for processing.