Going by the performance of local farmers and other players in the agricultural value chain, some stakeholders have predicted a boom in the sector in the years ahead. They have also described the patronage of locally produced food items such as rice, yam and other items by government and corporate organisations during the lockdown as a patriotic step that would positively impact the economy.
President of the Rice Millers and Importers of Nigeria (RiMIDAN), Dr. Tunji Owoeye, in an interview with THISDAY, said the achievement recorded in the sector during the lockdown was made possible by the visionary leadership of the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who according to him, strengthened government’s intervention in the agriculture and food value chain.
“The lockdown didn’t meet players in the agricultural sector unprepared because in the last few years, CBN, under Godwin Emefiele, has strengthened government intervention in the sector and this has increased output even before pandemic.
“If the intervention is sustained, I can assure Nigerians that our farmers would not only feed the nation but will feed the entire West Africa,” he added.
Owoeye, also pointed out that aside from the expansive lands available for farmers, Nigeria can also boast of enough market to lift agric business.
Reviewing the performance of the sector in the last few months, the National President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, Sanni Dangote, was of the opinion that what Nigerians experienced during the lockdown was enough to convince stakeholders that the sector deserved more attention.
“With some additional rural infrastructure, Nigerian farmers can produce more than what Nigerians need and even do exports more. It’s a matter of being focused.
“I believe the government should get all the relevant government ministries and agencies and CBN, Bank of agriculture, bank of industry and the Nigerian Agric Business Group (NABG), to work together and work out a national agricultural production plan.
“Besides, government should remain consistent with its agricultural policies and substitution of imports with locally grown produce,” Dangote said.
Speaking further, Dangote called on Nigerian youths and graduates to explore opportunities in the sector, adding that if agric is seen as business, the high level of unemployment in the country would be addressed.
“Nigeria youths and graduates should look at agriculture in its total supply chain. There are many innovative ideas they can explore and engage in to get substantial income. From technology, IT, Logistisc, marketing, distribution, inputs supply, markets research, irrigation systems supply and also quality assurance,” Dangote stated.
In what looked like a radical approach to the issue, the Vice President, Nigeria Agribusiness Group, Dr. Emmanuel Ijewere, said Nigerian famers produced at least 130 per cent of what is being consumed in the country, but was quick to point out that between 40 to 50 per cent, is daily being wasted because of lack of storage facilities.
“What we experienced in the last few months, has simply confirmed our position that we can feed ourselves. Even before the lockdown, local farmers have been consistent in producing at least 130 per cent of what we consume in the country but between 40 to 50 per cent are wasted -they don’t get to the dining table.
“If only we can reduce this wastage, we can be sure of the capacity of the sector not only to feed Nigerians but to lift the economy. It will also interest Nigerians that 65 per cent of rice brought into Lagos from neighboring countries don’t leave the commercial city.
“This is also to confirm that local rice is consumed in many parts of the country and this can be strengthened if the Lagos market is not polluted with foreign rice,” Ijewere added.
However, the Vice Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Babafemi Oke, was of the opinion that the closure of borders also contributed largely to the success of the sector in recent time. According to him, border closure for almost a year before the lockdown gave local farmers advantage to explore the market and increased output.