Since the coming of the present administration, there has been redirected effort at diversifying the national economy and reducing dependence on oil as a major revenue earner. In this report, ANDREW ESSIEN, highlights achievements recorded in this regard in select states as a pointer to the appropriateness of the policy.
The quest for the diversification of the Nigerian economy has been long overdue. As everyone has come to realize, the inability of past governments to shift attention away from oil brought about some consequential events, the most pronounced being the current recession. The failure, over time, led to the swelling of the food import bill which exacted pressure on the nation’s foreign reserve. Expectedly, this has drastically dwindled overtime aided by the slump in the price of oil at the international market.
Despite the favourable economic outlook, previous administrations in the country only paid lip service to agriculture. Thus, the net food import into Nigeria, hit an all-time high of nearly 2.8 billion dollars in 2010, according to sources from All Nigerian Farmers Association.
Instead of decreasing, the bill has continued to swell. This, analysts say, has grave implications on the nation’s food security. Conscious of the huge potentials inherent in the agricultural sector, and, concerned about the consequences of a big nation like Nigeria depending on external sources for her food needs, the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, from inception, adopted a policy change aimed at turning around the fortunes of the agricultural sector and that of the country. Many state governments keyed into the diversification agenda of the Buhari government and today, some of them have made giant strides in the sector.
Katsina State government, under the leadership of Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari has mapped out strategy to reposition the state’s agricultural sector. The state government is constructing a dam in Danja Local Government Area in order to boost sugarcane production and irrigation activities in the state. To actualize this, the governor has gone ahead to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with a Chinese firm on the project.
Masari said Danja Sugarcane Factory, established over 25 years ago, was neglected by previous administrations and declared his determination to revive it. “Channels will be constructed, while the existing sugarcane factory will be upgraded to boost sugar production for both domestic and foreign consumption,’’ he said, reiterating the governments of Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states had agreed to jointly import 250,000 metric tons of fertilizer for their farmers for dry season farming.
To demonstrate its determination, the state government has set aside N8 billion naira in the 2017 budget to boost the agricultural sector. The governor stated this at the launch of the state/CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme On Rice for 2016/2017 dry season farming on Thursday in Jibia, Katsina State, adding “we are targeting 20,000 farmers that will actively participate in the Anchor Rice Programme in the state.’’
Masari disclosed that the state government had expended more than N300 million for the rehabilitation and expansion of 10 dams that were being used for irrigation.
LAGOS & KEBBI
The partnership between Lagos and Kebbi states is one that has had a very positive impact on the sector, in fact, they have led a revolution of sorts in rice production with evidence for all to see. In a record breaking move, the Lagos and Kebbi governments, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on March 23, 2016, to collaborate towards the development of their agricultural potentials. The outcome of the record-setting deal was evident in December 2016, when Lagos government opened designated centres across the state for the sale of its farm produce, Lake Rice.
Ambode painted a picture that impressively showed how the collaboration would create commodity value chains and boost food processing, production, and distribution. He said: “Lagos State is the largest consumer of food commodities in Nigeria by virtue of our state population. We have the market, with the required purchasing power also. Lagos State has an estimated consumption of over 798,000 metric tonnes of milled rice per year which is equivalent to 15.96 million of 50kg bags, with a value of N135 billion per annum.” He noted that the state currently consumes 6,000 cattle daily, which may increase to 8,000 in the next five years.
Ambode continued: “Lagos State is one of the largest producers of poultry and thus has a large demand for maize for livestock feed production. The state also houses most of the industrial users of wheat and sorghum; mostly flour mills, bakeries, breweries, and food manufacturers.
Kebbi State, on the other hand, is blessed with a vast arable land characterised by very large flood plains, lowland swamps and gentle slopes. In the 2014/2015 wet season, over 600,000 hectares of land was deployed for rice cultivation in the three senatorial areas of the state.”
The beauty of this joint venture is its formalisation to the extent that it will be implemented using a special purpose vehicle called LASKEB Agricultural Production and Marketing Company (LAPMCO), which will focus on rice, wheat, groundnut, onions, maize, sorghum, and beef.
According to Ambode, “The people of Kebbi are traditionally rice farmers with average land holding of about 10 hectares. Presently, Kebbi has over 50,000 metric tonnes of paddy in store produced from the last two planting seasons.”
Interestingly, Governor Bagudu projected that the partnership would provide 60 to 70 percent of the country’s rice demand.
One of the single largest investments in the sector will have to go to the government of Kano State. It is an encouragement that if it can be done in Kano, other states can replicate, if not same but more, so as to bring the nation to the much desired agricultural eldorado. With the election of Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in 2015, one of the sectors that quickly attracted his attention was the agricultural sector, which Kano has comparative advantage in. His administration has, no doubt, achieved enviable height in the sector.
This key agricultural investment to boost investors’ confidence has created multiple frontiers of opportunity in the state. It is all encompassing, from job and wealth creation for the teeming unemployed youths and women; increasing the food security status of the state and income of farmers; increasing the sector’s contribution to the state’s internally generated revenue and encouraging private sector investment across all the agricultural value chains to building capacity of the sector’s workforce by some notable development partners.
In working to improve the food security status of the state, the government has supported farmers’ cooperatives of over 2,000 membership to acquire production and processing equipment which has brought about key accomplishments in the sector.
One of the noteworthy strides was the commissioning of the new Artificial Insemination Center, Kadawa built by the federal government and the training of several women and youths in poultry, dairy and aquaculture value chains.
The government has also enhanced capacity building training of farmers and farmer groups with about 600 farmers trained on the control of mycotoxins in maize and rice mid-season activities, milk processing and hygiene by the Commercial Agriculture Development Programme (CADP);
1,839 farmers trained on modern agricultural practices along sorghum, rice and tomato value chains across the state by the FADAMA III-additional financing programme and provision of 5,000 irrigation water pumps for dry season farming.
The most ambitious yet is the over 20 dams made possible by the state government which have a total active storage capacity of 3.3 billion cubic meters out of which 700 million is available for irrigation.
Also, the Delta State government’s efforts towards reducing the number of unemployed Deltans through agriculture has received a boost with the Department For International Development (DFID) set to partner with the Delta State government in the areas of agricultural development.
“We are also looking into how we can develop more agro-based industries and we are looking into areas where we have comparative advantage such as cassava and palm oil production with its value chain as well as aqua culture”, the governor, Ifeanyi Okowa said, adding “for us to go into agro-processing we need market linkages which is a key factor to the success of the agricultural sector.”