LAGOS – Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have frowned at what was proposed for the sector in the 2021 budget, stating that it will make no meaningful impact on the nation’s agricultural system.
The Stakeholders in separate interviews with DAILY INDEPENDENT, called on government to have a second look at what was proposed and do the needful.
They tasked the Federal Government to honour the MAPUTO agreement signed by African countries to commit at least 10 per cent of their budgetary allocation to agriculture, stressing that what was proposed will never be sufficient to address critical issues limiting productivity of farmers across the country.
Some are of the opinion that with the little resources proposed for the sector, it will be a major problem to get good seeds, fertilizer and a little will be achieved on mechanised farming which at the end may translate to low production, rise in importation of food, high cost of staple foods and possibility of food crisis.
According to Ezekiel Ibrahim Mam, National President of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), the allocation of N110billion to agriculture in 2021 did not correlate to all the shouts Nigerians are making about food security.
He said the allocation is just too inadequate to address the challenges confronting agriculture.
“How can the country be self-sufficient in food with a population of about 200million people, and we are allocating 110billion naira only while about 65 percent of the population are engaged in agriculture and its related value chain.
Mam further stated that how can the country subsidise agriculture which is the practice in most developing and developed economies all over the world.
According to him, if the country is really committed to ensuring that no Nigerian citizens go to bed with an empty stomach then there is the need to have a second look at the allocation to agriculture.
“If the country is really committed to ensuring that no Nigerian citizen go to bed with an empty stomach then there is the need to have a second look at the allocation to agriculture,” he said.
Prince Wale Oyekoya, an agriculturist and the Chief Executive Officer of Bama Farms Limited, said that the money budgeted is a joke of the century with all the pyramid of problems facing agricultural sector.
“This is less than two percent of the budget in violation of Maputo agreement which Nigeria is a signatory that 10 percent of African Nation budgets should be set aside to agriculture to avert food crises.
“Both the animal production and crops are facing serious challenges ranging from poultry industry which faces maize scarcity leading to high cost of animal feed coupled with the covid-19 pandemic effect on the sector.
He said climate change affected crop when there was no rain in July, August and September and that the infrastructural deficit is mounting on the rural farming which hinder farmers to bring farm produce to the consumers.
“To get better seeds to plant will be a big problem from this meager allocation of 110 billion naira. It also translate that fertiliser will be scarce and expensive in the open market and adulterated fertiliser will be the norms.
He said it is obvious that with this amount budgeted for the sector importation of food will take the center stage and deplete the nation’s little foreign reserves.
He said farmers will continue to do business of farming with cutlasses and hoes as the little cannot buy some of the mechanised equipment.
“We should be expecting low production from farmers, rise in importation of foods, high cost of staple foods; famine is inevitable with the possibility of food crises.
Henry Olatujoye, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the National Palm Produce Association of Nigeria (NPPAN) said the money is grossly insufficient and cannot go far.
He said in simple terms, government is budgeting N550 per person living in Nigeria to arrange food in a year.
According to him, “We use billions of naira to import foods annually, how do they think it will be enough. Anyway, let us wait for what and what they intend to do.”
Mohammed Tahir, of Plantation Owners Forum of Nigeria (POFON), said it is just like a drop in the ocean, adding that the government has set an ambitious agenda for agriculture but did not provide or plan the resources to realise the ambition.
“The government is a proponent of mechanisation, want to feed 200 million people and possibly start export. Take palm oil alone, how much investment is required to close the gap between local supply and demand, not to talk of poultry, feeds among others?
Femi Oke, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos state chapter said that the proposed amount will not be enough to cater for the sector, as there is the need to increase what was proposed for the sector.
Mufutau Abolarinwa, national President of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), said if the stakeholders’ opinions are properly consulted before estimation the amount is grossly inadequate for developing agriculture in the country.
Anibe Achimugu, President, National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN),noted that the amount will not be sufficient to tackle the various challenges confronting the sector.
“But then, again we have to consider the limited resources of government and not to also lose sight of the fact that government is also funding agriculture through other interventions such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and in general that private investments are also coming into the agricultural space.
“But I can dare say it is enough for the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), if focused on critical multiplier effect areas such as Research and Development, which will take care of the all-important input of good quality planting seeds, provision of good rural roads, infrastructure to allow easy access to farms and evacuation of produce, provision of security (Agric Rangers as once muted by Government), Mechanisation Service Centres and Extension Services provision, with significant emphasis on training farmers on modern best agricultural practices and on how to deal with climate change.
He further explained that what was proposed will not be enough for the federal ministry of agriculture and rural development, but it is more than enough to take several game changing steps in the right direction to build a foundation that can be sustainably built upon.
However, Biodun Onalaja producer of Okun Rice stated that agriculture remain the alternative mean of growing the country economy if all the value chains are given serious attention.
He said that the amount been budgeted for in the 2021 budget will go a long way if properly harnessed.
“The step is in the right direction if adequate monitoring and dedication is given to agriculture by taking it as a business in order to grow the sector,” he said.
Meanwhile President Muhammadu Buhari, while presenting the budget to the NASS, and reeling out key achievements in the 2020 fiscal year stated that government recorded appreciable success in rice and other crops mainly through the Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, anchored by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, respectively.
“We are also accelerating the construction of 337 rural roads around key agricultural corridors to enhance access to market and reduce post-harvest losses. These efforts have reduced the adverse impact of Coronavirus on our food availability, prices and security,” he said.
Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, while giving the breakdown of the 2021 budget said that: “The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will facilitate the integrated development of its sector by promoting crops’ value chains; as well as providing rural roads, water and sanitation, veterinary and pest controls, grazing, food and strategic reserves, and access to inputs and extension services.