The plan by the Federal Government to increase inputs in agriculture to enhance capacity utilisation is a welcome development for farmers and stakeholders in the sector.
President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in his last Sunday media chat, said government is putting measures in place to boost productivity in the sector from the present level of N15.84bn ($99billion) per annum to N48trillion ($300billion) by 2030.
The initiative, he said would enhance food security in the country, as the policy aims at making Nigeria self sufficient in food production. The President added that the policy would also pave the way for export of farm produce to other countries for revenue generation.
Jonathan further explained that job creation as part of the transformation agenda of government could be achieved mostly by ensuring rapid growth in agriculture, which is a sector capable of providing jobs for a large number of the people, especially youths. “Agriculture development is also part of our strategy in repositioning the economy for the Vision 20:2020 target.
Government is working tirelessly to make Nigeria an agriculturally industrialised economy. This would have a multiplier effect in stimulating growth of the rural economy to create jobs and markets for numerous farmers in the country”, he stressed.
Economic growth rate:
Experts are of the opinion that reviving agriculture is quite imperative to economic growth because of its contribution to the GDP and ability to promote export trade, even as Nigeria’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, growing by 7.8 per cent annually, and it is projected to become the largest economy in Africa by 2015, and the fifth largest in the world by 2050.
To pragmatically demonstrate its commitment to agriculture, the government recently pledged the sum of $15million as its contribution to the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), which is meant for the replenishment of IFAD resources. The $15milion figure shows about 300 per cent increase over the regular $5million Nigerian government has been giving to IFAD.
The policy of government on 10 percent cassava flour inclusion in wheat flour for bread:
Some farmers, who spoke with Sunday Business, expressed satisfaction with the policy of government on inclusion of 10 per cent cassava flour into wheat flour for production of bread. They said the policy is a step in the right direction to enable farmers increase their outputs.
Accordingly, the bill presented to the National Assembly by the President seeks to make it compulsory for cassava flour to be included in bread and other similar pastries, because the more local cassava flour consumed, the less imported flour used. This makes economic sense as it is capable of saving Nigeria an estimated N250 billion and creating more jobs for people within the urban and rural areas.
N200 billion commercial agric credit:
In April 2009, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) created the N200 billion Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme and the funds are being disbursed through the deposit money banks (DMBs) to local farmers to enable them improve their production capacity.
The loan scheme has an interest rate that does not exceed 9 percent and the maturity period which must not be more than 7 years. The scheme is to enable local farmers expand their capacity to create more jobs and enhance revenue generation for the economy.
Sunday Business gathered that 109 projects, made up of privately-owned projects, have been financed with part of the money, while 19 state governments received N1 billion each for disbursement to farmers’ co-operatives and unions within their constituencies.
Aside from the N200billion agric credit scheme, in 2010, a huge sum of N500 billion was approved as an intervention fund for the manufacturing industry, all in a bid to grow agriculture and the non-oil export sector of the economy.
“The sector has the capacity to absorb over 500.000 work force annually” The registrar, Nigerian Institute of Animal Science (NIAS) Abuja, and former chairman, Agriculture, Non-oil Export Trade Group, Lagos Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (LACCIMA), Dr. Godwin Oyedele Oyediji, says the efforts by government to develop agriculture is a good initiative and should be supported by the private sector to ensure long-term benefits.
“Growing agriculture means government is focusing more on the reforms that would stimulate economic growth and development within the short, medium and long term expectations”, he said. He went on: “The policy would allow industrial growth and also address the prevalent problem of unemployment in the country, especially among the youths.
For instance, agriculture is a sector of Nigeria ’s economy that has the capacity to absorb over 500.000 youths annually, if power improves and necessary infrastructures are provided to create enabling environment.
“Aside from the policy on 10 per cent inclusion of cassava flour in bread, there is need for the minister of agriculture to come up with proactive measures that would restructure the sector for greater growth. Also, efficient transportation system is important for the sector to function optimally. Agriculture needs functional transportation network to achieve rapid growth, because farm produce must be conveyed from where they are harvested to the end users on time.
“If you look at the aggregate analysis, about 70million Nigerians are involved in agriculture in the country directly and indirectly. For instance, the employment capacity in the sector is often classified under skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour.
It means with the population of over 160million people, agriculture alone could comfortably take 50 per cent of the entire workforce of Nigeria , noting fully well that 50 per cent of Nigeria ’s population are youths from 15 years and above.
Agriculture would also generate revenue as additional source of income-flow in the economy. Also large scale farming must be encouraged across the country and our farm produce should be exported to other countries for foreign exchange”.
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