By Raheem Akingbolu
Stakeholders in the nation’s agricultural value chain have advised the federal government to offer incentives such as mechanised equipment, acquisition and clearing of farmland for farmers to ease production.
The experts who spoke at the 8th Annual Brand Journalists’ Association of Nigeria (BJAN) Brands & Marketing Conference, held recently in Lagos, recently, also cautioned government against frequent policy somersault like the plan to reopen Nigeria’s borders, which they argued would be detrimental to local farmers.
President, Rice Millers Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, Dr Tunji Owoeye, who commended the effort being made by current administration to further deepen investment in the agricultural sector, said it would be suicidal for government to reopen the borders without adequate protection for local farmers.
According to him, the gains of the past few months could be eroded by smugglers who would flood the market with imported rice, chicken and other food items.
The Deputy Chairman of Lagos State All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Sakin Agbeyewa, who represented the association’s chairman, Femi Oke, stressed that Nigeria’s agricultural sector needs a lot of subsidy, not just in form of cash to farmers but through the provision of a conducive atmosphere.
He said: “The subsidy we are calling for is not in form of cash to our members. The subsidy we want is ready- to- plant lands. By clearing bush for our members, by helping us interface with all types of land owners who gather to disturb during planting and harvesting period.
“In the northern part, farmers are being prevented from going to farms to harvest their crops by terrorists that are forcing them to heavy dues for them to access their farms products, subsidy is also in form of provision of bulldozers for land, swamp-dozers for swampy areas, provision of food preservers for perishable products,”
Presenting a paper at the conference, President, Organisation for the Advancement of Cold Chain in West Africa, (OTACCWA), Tunde Okoya, dwelt extensively on developing a blueprint for a national cold chain in Nigeria, pointing out that it remained the only key strategy to consolidate the expansion and growth of agriculture in the country.
“According to FAO, post-harvest loss of many agric product in Nigeria could be as high as 50 per cent so invariably, a lot of production by our farmer goes into waste along the value chain and that cannot be a very productive way for any country.
“So, the result of this is poor earnings for the farmers, poor nutrition for the children, and poor hygiene for the country. Nigeria is ranked 98 out of 107 countries in the global hunger index majorly because of this.
“The problem is that, even though we are producing a lot, a large percentage of the production is going into waste. With an effective cold chain policy, Agriculture in Nigeria will soar to greater heights”, Okoya stated.
Also speaking at the event, the Senior Special Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture on Communication, Mr. Richard Mark Mbaram, called on Journalists to hold government accountable to the citizenry, especially on issues related to government intervention in the Agricultural sector.
The minister’s aide made reference to the Anchor Borrower Programme introduced by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which he described as one of the issues which journalists should bring their interrogative minds to bear. Meanwhile, in a communiqué issued after the conference the organisers recommended that in joining Africa’s free trade agreement (AfCFTA), the Nigerian government should put in place policies that will fully protect local farmers.
Government was also urged to effectively check banditry, kidnapping and killings especially in food producing areas to ensure that food insecurity does become worse in the coming years.
The communiqué reads; “the government at the Centre as well as those in the states, especially the South-West, should promote economic integration by providing infrastructure to support rice and other farmers to ensure that production cost is reduced to a manageable level.
“A policy that will deepen insurance in the agricultural sector should be put in place as many insurance companies in Nigeria deliberately avoid providing insurance coverage for farmers.
“Governments at all levels should ensure that farmers are not excluded from budgetary planning as this negatively affected the quality of budget and planning for agriculture in the last few years.”