Stakeholders set agenda for FG on agric

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As 2020 progresses, stakeholders in the agricultural sector have begun to sensitise the Federal Government on the need to formulate favourable policies that will transform the sector.

President, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN), Victor Iyama, who called on government to implement its array of policies that concern the sector, said provision of infrastructure will reposition the sector.He said: “It is not a matter of setting agenda, but implementing our various good policies in the sector. We should work towards using our river basins, by providing irrigators. We cannot continue to depend on rain-fed agricultural production; we should go beyond that.

“Government should provide rural infrastructure and, of course, find ways to preserve our agricultural produce because 55 per cent of them goes to waste. It’s not that we are not producing, but post-harvest losses are part of the challenges,” he noted.He urged government to recapitalize the Bank of Agriculture (BoA), make it to carry out its mandate of developing agriculture in the country.

“Many youths are now going into farming and we are still mentoring many. They are really interested in tree crops; they are more interested in rice, maize and other three-month crops. Government is trying as far as agriculture is concerned, but it needs to be more proactive, especially towards provision of cheap funds. Though the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is trying with the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), but that is not sustainable and that is why I said the BoA must be recapitalised and give loans along the value chains of agricultural businesses at five per cent,”

The Grow Coordinator, Oxfam, Nigeria, Saratu Abiola tasked government on addressing smallholder farmers’ productivity gaps, saying it is key to unlocking any potential benefits from the government’s protectionist policies. She said: “This year, government should put its money where its mouth is, with regards to supporting smallholder farmers. Over 70 per cent of our agricultural productivity is from smallholder farmers, whose agricultural endeavours are often not viable. In spite of government’s many programmes, farmers still face great difficulty accessing fund to grow their enterprises, access to inputs to improve their yields, and access to climate information and insurance against climate change.

“Women and young people are far from adequately supported to access land or loan. Government should conduct more stakeholder engagements with farmers and, more importantly, do the work of meeting their needs. Reaching out to people better through government initiatives is really a governance question, and links back to the general issues that beset governance in the country.”

She advised government to invest more in agricultural development and have a realistic budget for the sector. “The budget for agriculture for 2019 is just over two per cent, less than the three per cent of 2018 budget and far below the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Plan (CAADP) requirement of 10 per cent for agricultural development. Taken together with the lack of adequate monitoring to impact agricultural investment, the sector does not get the attention it deserves in spite of the government touting it as important.

“Agricultural budgets tend to be vague, with such lines as ‘access to finance for women and youth’ that make it hard to actually track. Very little effort is put into tracking public investments in a transparent manner. Government should change this.

According to her, government needs to pay more attention to climate change, wanton deforestation in different states across the country, which is reducing the long-term arability of our soil. She noted that these factors will increase the reliance of farmers on agro-inputs, cost of usage of land and bring about low profits on yield.

Abiola called for farmers to be given agro-meteorological information of flooding and other natural disasters.She said: “Government should also better coordinate agricultural efforts between state and national, and provide incentives for states who are doing well. Too often government officials in states have never seen the policy documents like the CAADP that targets agricultural development and the Nigerian Agricultural Resilience Framework (NARF) and states how the country will respond to climate challenges facing different zones.” 

The Consultant, Ondo State Cocoa Revolution Project, Robo Adhuze, a former spokesman of Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), said the basic interest of stakeholders in the cocoa industry is the implementation of the National Cocoa Plan, which has been approved by stakeholders since 2018.

“So, if the Federal Executive Council (FEC) can give approval to the National Cocoa Plan, it doesn’t require too much debate, if they approve it early it will improve investments in the critical value chain in the cocoa industry. To me, that will make the cocoa sector grow fast this year.”To the Chief Executive Officer, Spectra Foods Limited, Mr Duro Kuteyi, government needs to do a lot by sponsoring crops to be planted, adding that last year’s focus was on rice and called for focus to be shifted to other grains such as soybeans, maize, sorghum, cowpeas, groundnut and millet.

“Government should encourage setting up of industries that will serve as producers of intermediate products like large scale milling. The industries will create more Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), as we have in maize, but the challenge is that we do not have enough for local use. Currently, the maize flour and maize grids we use in food industries across the country are imported from India and Turkey. Most of the industries rely on imported maize because the maize are not even enough for animal feeds, less food production.”

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