By Silva Opusunju
According to the Oxford Business Group report of 2016, the Agricultural sector in Nigeria is performing solidly well. The report states that the sector grew at the rate of 3.48% in the fourth quarter of 2015 and a full year of 3.72% well above general economic growth of
2.11%. Blessed with abundant land and water resources, Nigeria’s agricultural sector has a high potential for growth, but this potential unfortunately has never been realized until recently.
Productivity was at its lowest pace and basically stagnant. Farming systems, which are mostly small in scale, were still predominantly subsistence-based and for the most part depend on the vagaries of the weather. Many past agricultural policies were also ineffective, either because they were been misguided, or because their impacts have were swamped by macro policies affecting inflation, exchange rates, and the cost of capital. Recognizing these challenges, the Ministry of Agriculture under the leadership of Chief Audu Ogbeh identified the modernization of the agricultural sector as a major priority. Scholars have applied the Global Trade Analysis Project (GTAP) framework to estimate the growth potential of agriculture in Nigeria. The results showed that although a 1% percent technological progress in the oil sector gives the largest welfare benefits in several millions of dollars. Some subsectors in the agricultural sectors (e.g. cattle, fruit and vegetables) outperform some of the oil and manufacturing sectors in terms to return to investment.
Also results show technological improvements related to unskilled labor produced the highest returns in agriculture compared to any other sector under this administration. Just like in manufacture, the highest returns are obtained from technological improvements related to capital.Nigeria is no doubt on its way to modern development in Agricultural sector. Branding itself as the “giant of Africa”, the country under the Buhari administration knew there was need to prove its potential by raising its standards to a level with other fast developing economies of the world. This has aided in describing and predicting the performance of the agricultural sector in Nigeria and as a result, the overall economic development of the country in the coming decade.
Even though Nigeria has a high poverty rate, it still has a higher GDP in comparison to other countries of Africa. Till now Nigeria has been trailing behind Western economies. Today, almost sixty years after gaining independence, Nigeria should compete with economies of the
world rather than just African economies. The country is rich in natural resources and has identified the fact that taking appropriate measures can speed its economic development. With this foresight, it crafted the vision 20-20-20 program. This program aims to make Nigeria one of the twenty largest world economies by the year 2020.
The seven points in the 20-20-20 program are: power and energy, food security and agriculture, wealth creation and employment, mass transportation, land reforms security and functional education. The country seeks to become a leading economy in Africa and a major player in the world’s economic and political affairs and their 20-20-20 plan is their guideline. To become a developed nation, the Buhari administration knew the imperative of focusing on vital economic sectors like education, energy, manufacturing, and most especially agriculture. At this point in Nigeria’s development, it was evident that the best approach is to focus on the agricultural sector. By focusing on agricultural development, Nigeria can speed up its economic growth in the coming decade. Currently, Nigeria has 75 percent of its land
suitable for agriculture, but only 40% is cultivated. That indicates there is much room for the county to focus on.
This addresses the food security and agriculture component of their plan along with the focus on employment for all. However, to move forward, the country must increase the low productivity of current agricultural companies, engage competition within the agricultural sector, develop domestic policies and increase funding. In terms of the 20-20-20 plan and the immediate plan for agriculture, growth promotion was identified as the first goal. There were also goals in the areas of livelihoods improvement, sustainable development and policy and institutional reforms.
This involves conducting agricultural surveys, and establishing smallholder fattening schemes for livestock. It also includes the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructures and expansion of those structures as well. There is also a call for a 1,000 capacity community farm center; there is also a plan for increasing the effectiveness of fish hatcheries by establishing parent stock programs and there will also be vaccination programs for livestock. There will be a revision of the guaranteed minimum price system for crops and livestock; as well there will also be government training for the new agricultural workers.
One component in determining how to use agriculture to improve economics in Nigeria is
to evaluate the historical efforts in terms of agriculture that Nigeria has engaged in since its independence. This will ensure that the country does not repeat past mistakes. In addition, this evidence will demonstrate whether or not it is feasible for agriculture to be a primary factor in Nigerian economic development. Along with historical factors, there must be an evaluation of both internal and external factors that could impact the Nigerian agriculture market. In addition, it is important to identify the strategies needed to enhance economic growth through the use of agriculture.
To this effect, in 1984 when he was appointed a Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh brought his expertise to the office. He formulated laudable agricultural policies and followed to the implementation. Firstly, he introduced special seedlings to Kogi, Benue and some other states for planting and eventual means of generating revenue for the states and the federation. The cashew nuts, an export product in Nigeria is one he showed much interest aside others like improved cattle breed and beans. Chief Audu Ogbeh with his interest and commitment then supervised Nigeria producing tones and tones of the nuts for the export market.Then in exchange, the country was earning 600 million naira per 10,000 tonnes of export.
With his new revolution and leadership prowess, there has been significant growth and high revenue for the country. As at today, Nigeria can boast of earning two billion dollars in exchange rate by the time we commence full exportation of the cashew nuts. It is also to be noted that, we have most of the best seedlings in the world when it comes to some cash crops. Is it to mention the Shea nuts, Cashew nuts, Ginger, etc. Nigeria is indeed blessed and the Buhari administration knowing this, is not resting on its oars until sufficiency for the local and the international market is achieved.
Chief Audu Ogbeh is right on track and for us to achieve our collective aim in the agricultural sector, the task is not for him alone, but us all to be a food sufficient country.