Stakeholders in the agricultural value chain who gathered in Lagos recently at the 3rd edition of the Daily Trust Agricultural Conference and Exhibition have called for a systematic collaboration between agriculture and agriculture finance for the realisation of what they called the agricultural fortunes of Nigeria.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the two-day conference organised by Media Trust Limited, the participants noted that such collaboration should involve deepening interventions like the Anchor Borrower Programme of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the efforts led by the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NISRAL).
The theme of the conference was: ‘Repositioning Rice, Sugar and Dairy Production for Optimal Yield’.
The event, which was chaired by a renowned Chartered Accountant and Co-Chair of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, noted that the rice economy estimated at $5.2 billion, is projected to hit $6.3 billion by 2025.
The communiqué, however, identified some impediments militating against the realisation of this target.
According to the communiqué, the combined improved seed production capacity of 100,000 tonnes, could only satisfy less than eight per cent of national demand.
It also noted lack of enough extension agents to cover Small Holder Farmers (SHFs) as recommended by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO); challenges in accessing finance; and low access to irrigation schemes, among others.
The communiqué also stated that Nigeria has the potential of becoming a net exporter of sugar as consumption in the country has been on the increase since Independence with an annual average growth rate of eight per cent.
It however, pointed out that only about five per cent of the national demand for the commodity is produced locally, while the balance is imported with a huge foreign exchange on an annual basis.
“Smuggling of granulated sugar and faking of local brands, particularly in the North-West Zone, has been a major menace. In spite of engagements with relevant agencies and measures put in place to address the issue, smuggling of packaged sugar persists,” the communiqué added.
On the issue of dairy farming, the communiqué stated that even though the Nigerian cattle population has been put at about 20 million heads, domestic milk production is not commensurate with this large cattle population as only about 2.2million are used for milk production.
“Nigeria completely relies on huge import of dairy products to bridge the gap between demand and supply,” it added.
The participants at the conference recommended that Nigeria should invest in competitiveness by bringing knowledge and innovation into the rice value chain; standardising practices in the sector; and developing protocols for rice farming.
They also urged the federal government to check the unprecedented dependence on importation of sugar;
Too boost dairy farming, they recommended that the country should develop resettlement programmes for nomadic Fulani herdsmen
“Nigeria should invest in aggregation of milk from clusters in various states and make it available to the big buyers. Formation of cooperatives should be at two levels, including producers’ cooperatives and processing cooperatives,” they recommended.