By James Emejo in Abuja
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has said the slow growth in agriculture in the second quarter (Q2) of the year was largely due to the fact that it was a dry season, adding that lack of adequate irrigation also affected the sector.
The sector, which is ought to be the largest employer of labour as well as key to President Muhammadu Buhari’s diversification strategy recorded one of the lowest growth rates to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Q2, sparking criticism from analysts.
A Professor of Finance and Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof. Uche Uwaleke had expressed disappointment over the performance of the sector.
He told THISDAY:”The performance of the non-oil sector was not particularly impressive. Agriculture was particularly disappointing at just 1.19 per cent, one of the lowest growth rates in recent times. The reason for this is not far-fetched. The seemingly intractable clashes between herders and farmers were partly to blame.”
However, the minister, while responding to THISDAY enquiry on the subject matter, said post-harvest catastrophes, including lack of storage, lack of transportation and village roads, which are not maintained due to the collapse of the local government system further hampered performance of the sector.
He also said the contribution of agriculture to GDP will remain between 22 per cent and 25 per cent for some time until there are improvement in areas identified.
He said the inability of the country’s farm produce to meet the quality standards of foreign markets, particularly the European market remained a challenged.
“We’ve just ended a season, the next harvest is beginning in about a month. So, dry season farming here is very low, we don’t have much irrigation.
“You will find the figures in October and November much higher than what you saw.
“We go through that spell and then you climb in the rainy season because agriculture is 98 per cent rain-fed and that’s the reason.
“But 22 per cent is big; we can say that by and large, we saw Nigeria out of recession and one of the factors is what we mentioned just now: interest rates.
“People want to go into processing and value addition; we lose a lot of what we grow to post-harvest catastrophes like lack of storage, lack of transportation and village roads simply not maintained because the local government system has collapsed- village roads are not done because the local governments are no longer working by and large. “
According to the minister, “farmers can’t even move their crops to centres where they’ll sell them. We have things in demand in Europe but we haven’t quite arrived at standards demanded by our buyers.
“Even the packaging and the processing for us to be able to hit the European markets and do what others are doing like Kenya in East Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana on pineapples and all kind of product of export.
“So, agriculture will remain at that 22 percent to 25 percent for a while until we intensify irrigation and begin production all year round.”