Mono-economy which is premised on oil and gas had for many years dictated the pace of Nigeria’s economic growth. However, with the recent GDP growth recorded in agriculture and its sub-sectors, analysts have renewed the calls for diversification into agro-economy.
According to the Nigerian Gross Domestic Product Report- GDP (Q4 and Full year 2018 released by the Nigerian Bureau of statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s agriculture sector grew by 2.12% in 2018.
Similarly, it made 21.65% as its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) between January and March 2018.
Also, another data from the NBS revealed that the GDP from agriculture increased to N5408978.92 in the third quarter of 2019 from N3857705.59 in the second quarter of 2019.
In all, crop production remains the major driver of the sector, accounting for 89.84% of nominal agriculture GDP, while agriculture GDP grew by 14.27%, higher than 11.29% recorded in 2017.
As advanced by many economic analysts in the past, agriculture may have significantly contributed to the country’s economy, but this question to ask is: “Has successive administration backed policy with actions?
However, in proving pundits wrong, President Muhammadu Buhari in far away Kenya in 2016 promised to match words with actions. According to him, the country was going to enhance agriculture productivity via subsequent budgetary.
Speaking to reporters in Kenya on the margins of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), President Buhari said African countries had a lot to learn from Japan on developing agriculture.
The Nigerian president, who was making a particular reference to diversification and the technologically-driven agricultural practice in Japan, vowed to sustain concrete measures to diversify the economy by devoting more resources to agriculture in the country.
He was quoted as saying, “This year, in Nigeria, we started an aggressive farming programme that entails organising farmers into cooperatives in the second and third tier of government. We intend to put more resources in our 2017 budget, especially in the procurement of machinery for land clearing, fertilisers, pesticides and training of less-educated farmers, as farm extension instructors.
“We have already registered some success this year in a number of states; we identified some 13 states that will be self-sufficient in rice, wheat and grains before the end of 2018.
“We are very positive that soon we will be able to export these food products. We are also lucky that the farming season in the northern part of the country has been very good and we are expecting a bumper harvest this year.”
President Buhari also said Japan’s story of rapid economic growth, hard work and advanced technology should encourage Africans to strive harder and solve its development challenges.
“Japan has greatly advanced in technology, particularly in solar power, infrastructure to spur growth in medium and small-scale industries. Because of the advanced use of technology, farming and agriculture can become competitive.”
Requesting for increased participation of the Japanese government and the private sector in the Nigerian economy, Buhari said, “Japan has the knowledge, technology and capital to assist African countries to develop and Japanese firms are in a very good position to successfully compete for the development of infrastructure in Nigeria.”
As parts of plans for diversification of the economy, a former minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, while unveiling the federal government’s Agricultural Roadmap for Diversification of Economy in 2016, tagged, “The Green Alternative,” hinged the mover on the quest to jump start the economy diversification policy.
According to him, the moves were aimed at boosting local food production for self-sufficiency and exportation. Ogbeh also said the President Buhari-led administration has identified agriculture and solid minerals as priority sectors for development to diversify the economy from oil.
Shedding more light on the roadmap, Ogbeh said the 129-page document “intends to, amongst other things, raise agriculture’s share of the GDP to 23 per cent; increase the share of labour force to 70 per cent; agricultural activity mix by 85 per cent crop production with a 15 per cent increase in livestock and other non-crops.”
He said, “It also seeks to enhance the country’s foreign exchange (forex) earning capacity through agricultural exports by growing the agriculture’s share of non-oil exports earnings to 75 per cent. The roadmap will also facilitate the government’s capacity to meet its obligations to the citizenry on food security, safety and quality nutrition as well as increase budgetary provision for the agriculture sector by 2.0 per cent.
On statistics on food imports, the minister had said, “Food has many species and varieties; we import about 40 to 50 per cent of the rice we eat; at a time it was almost 100 per cent, costing $5 million daily. That has been the situation in the last 20 years. We still import almost 70 per cent of wheat for bread? We import about five million eggs per day from South Africa and some other countries. But we don’t import yams, garri and we don’t import beans.
“We used to import beans from Burkina Faso but that has stopped. We don’t import chicken although smugglers are quite busy every day. We import fish worth $600 million annually, but this is on the decrease because local fish production is increasing.
“We still import tomato paste. We are going to halt that in the next three months because local production capacity is almost satisfactory now. This is because the quality of the imported paste is doubtful. The importers are going to be very insistence that we can’t do it on our own but we will stand our ground.”
Continuing, he said: “We import honey to the tune of about $100 million per annum; we still import cookies and biscuits and even toothpick but all these did not happen in one day. The idea is to reduce these imports.
“We import a lot of milk and some local production by Friesland and some of the policies we put in place will reduce and also eliminate. But we can’t achieve self-sufficiency absolutely in the next one year but we are approaching there.”
Economy and diversification
Despite the fact that Nigeria’s oil has come at the detriment of the agriculture sector, key players in the sector had in support of the government policy continued to attribute Nigeria’s current woes to over-dependence on oil, a commodity presently known for its pricing volatility.
However, in tackling the multi-faceted economic quagmire, the diversification question has again propped up with agricultural experts advancing reasons to back their claims on the need to diversify the economy from a ‘Mono-economy’ to agriculture fully.
In an exclusive interview with Blueprint Weekend, a professor of agriculture extension and rural development, University of Ilorin, Olusegun Adetokunbo Adekunle, said agriculture was the next dependable option outside oil. According to him, agriculture is the next issue with backbone and everlasting venture with capacity to sustain any economy.
He said, “Apart from provision of raw materials to our industries including the pharmaceutical industries, agriculture is the only sector that has more job opportunities than other sectors. Aside from that, today in Nigeria, we also have potentials to breed all varieties of all livestock and galvanise huge revenue.”
In his submission on the issue, another agricultural expert, Abdulrasaq Abdulkadir, in a chat with this reporter, insisted that agriculture in Nigeria is not only the future, but the right way to go.
He said every part of the country has a fertile land for any agric product, adding that it “is a huge opportunity for economic diversification, insisting that with proper application of agriculture in Nigeria, it’s sure the future.”
“It would consequently, leads to creation of jobs opportunity for the teeming jobless population.” He also said mechanised agriculture with proper irrigation, was capable of changing the fortune of the country in the areas of balance diet, foods exportation, and other modern innovations.
“Moreover, agriculture has since absolved the information technology which has generated a fortune of revenue for countries like USA, china, Brazil and many developed countries,” he said.
Agro-economy the future?
Meanwhile, while unveiling Africa continent’s development finance institution’s African Economic Outlook (AEO) 2020, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, charged African leaders to prioritise citizen-oriented policies in their economic development agenda.
According to him, growth without food for the poor will worsens the poverty level on the continent.
The AfDB president said while it was commendable that Africa’s economies were growing strongly, “growth alone cannot meet the needs of the continent’s poorest citizens because nobody eats GDP.”
“As desirable as the growth remains, growth must, however, be visible. Growth must be equitable and be felt in the lives of people,” he said.