The recent announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that Nigeria had saved over $21 billion on food imports in the last three years has shown that the nation’s quest to prioritise agriculture is a step in the right direction. Taiwo Hassan writes.
Indeed, statistics from various key government agencies, such as the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and others, had shown that the non-oil sector of the economy has been the driving force of Nigeria’s economy in recent times. And particularly, agriculture is one of the sector that saw a huge turnaround, in line with the present administration’s diversification agenda to revamp the sector by bringing it to the front burner as the ‘next level’ in the heart of Nigerian economy. This is also geared towards using agriculture to replace crude oil, which had been over relied on as Nigeria’s cash cow.
In fact, the reason for this present administration to change the paradigm of the country’s national economic development by ignoring crude oil and pursue vigorously agriculture development may not be unconnected to the fact that when it came to power, there was a sharp decline in the price of crude oil at the international market in 2015, which hit the Nigeria economy hard.
However, when the regime’s blueprint for Nigeria’s economic development was unveiled, it categorically stated that it would prioritize agriculture and sustain backward integration programme by looking inward towards promoting self-sufficiency economy. Thus, the multiplier effects was felt by Nigerians.
With the Federal Government’s economic blueprint already in place, the Economic Team of the Buhari’s administration worked assiduously towards promoting the diversification agenda programme it adopted where agriculture was at epicenter and given the necessary support and funding to change the mindset of Nigerians away from crude oil as the highest revenue earner for the country.
Leading the regime’s ‘change mantra’ towards the ‘next level’ in Nigerian economy that period was the CBN, when it came up with the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme for rice production and the 41 items prohibition list, which banned importers from foreign exchange window. This was in a bid to encourage local content.
It is on record that the CBN under its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, saved Nigeria’s economy from going under, because of its proactive monetary policy, which tailored and projected Nigeria as an agrarian state economy and discouraged foreign imports of goods.
Basically, under the ABP programme, the apex bank had set-aside N40 billion out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEF) given to farmers at single digit interest rate of maximum nine per cent per annum in 2015 as part of the efforts to boost rice production and also make Nigeria a net exporter of rice. This noble initiative by the CBN is still a talking point in l Nigeria’s rice revolution that has seen other African countries coming to understudy the banking watchdog’s model.
In fact, the ABP is the game changer that put Nigeria’s rebirth economically, as it empowered local farmers and attracted blue chip companies to invest in rice production.
Speaking on the 41 items, Emefiele said although, the policy was restrictive of trade but it was necessary to protect the Nigerian economy from the importation of items that could dampen the local production and economic growth.
According to him, the implementation of forex policy to restrict importers of certain items access to foreign exchange from the country’s forex market led to improvements in the domestic production of those items and a reduction in Nigeria’s import bill.
Continent’s food imports saga
However, it is no longer news that Nigeria and other countries in the continent are spending about $35 billion annually on food imports. Ironically, this huge food imports spending basically develops other continent’s economies at the detriment of Africa.
Interestingly, it has been predicted that Africa is estimated to spend $110 billion by 2030 on food imports if it did not make concerted efforts to look inward economically and stop foreign food imports.
Out of the $35 billion annual food imports spending, Nigeria is responsible for $22 billion and this shows that the country is at the epicenter in changing the paradigm on the continent’s food imports. This is the reason the African Development Bank (AfDB) and others have been clamouring that leaders of African countries must start looking inward to promote their agro-allied sector and discourage dependency on food imports globally because it is not helping the continent’s economy economically.
President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, rued it is unacceptable for Nigeria and others in the continent to be spending $35 billion annually on food imports.
The AfDB chief, therefore, called for land tax for unused agricultural land, to provide incentives for faster commercialisation of agriculture and unlocking its potential in Africa.
Adesina said Africa held the key for feeding nine billion people by 2050, adding that more than ever before, the world must help Africa to rapidly modernise its agriculture and unlock its full potential.
According to him, the challenge of addressing global food security is the greatest in Africa. He said that close to 300 million were malnourished on the continent due to this challenge.
According to him, Africa is the only region of the world where its proportion of the population that is food insecure is on the increase.
“There is therefore absolutely no reason for Africa to be a food importing region. Africa has huge potential in agriculture, but, as Dr. Borlaug used to say, nobody eats potential,” he said.
“Unlocking that potential, we must start with the Savannah of Africa, which covers mind boggling 600 million hectares of which 400 million hectares are cultivable.
“Africa sits on 65 per cent of the uncultivated arable land left in the world, so what Africa does with agriculture will determine the future of food in the world.
“African farmers need more than a helping hand. They need a policy lift”.
Nigeria’s food imports cut
With controversy still raging over the true state of the Federal Government’s local rice policy and importation, the apex bank Governor, however, revealed a damning figure on the country’s food imports cut of the present regime since coming to power.
He said that Nigeria’s monthly food import bill fell from $665.4 million in January 2015 to $160.4 million as of October 2018.
Emefiele explained that the reductions in food imports were recorded on rice, fish, milk, sugar and wheat, adding that the policy would be maintained.
“Noticeable declines were steadily recorded in our monthly food import bill from $665.4 million in January 2015 to $160.4 million as at October 2018,” he said. “A cumulative fall of 75.9 per cent and an implied savings of over $21 billion on food imports alone over that period.
“Most evident were the 97.3 per cent cumulative reduction in monthly rice import bills, 99.6 per cent in fish, 81.3 per cent in milk, 63.7 per cent in sugar, and 60.5 per cent in wheat.
“We are glad with the accomplishments recorded so far. Accordingly, this policy is expected to continue with vigour until the underlying imbalances within the Nigerian economy have been fully resolved’.
Emefiele’s position on ABP
In the agriculture sector, he added that the Anchor Borrower Programme had ensured that Nigeria emerged from being a net importer of rice to becoming a major producer of rice, supplying key markets in neighbouring countries.
As at last October, he said a total number of 862,069 farmers cultivating about 835,239 hectares, across 16 different commodities, had so far benefited from the Anchor Borrowers programme, which had generated 2,502,675 jobs across the country.
“It is in light of the success of the Anchor Borrowers Program with regards to cultivation of rice and maize that the Monetary Policy Committee in its last meeting on the 21st of November, 2018 recommended that the Anchor Borrowers program be applied to other areas such as palm oil, tomatoes and fisheries to mention a few,” Emefiele said.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari has lauded Nigerians for curbing excessive taste for foreign products.
The new development, he said, has positioned the country for food self-sufficiency and resulted in saving over $21 billion.
The President, in a statement by the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, said the humongous savings would be deployed to other critical areas such as infrastructure, education, healthcare and many others.
From the forgoing, it indicates that there is a new vista in agriculture development in Nigeria, even though hunger is still prevalent in many households, which find it difficult to eat three square meals daily.
Agric group announces merger, invests $12m
Farmcrowdy Group, Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform, has disclosed that about $12 million have been invested in its agriculture value chain business to boost food security and availability in the country.
The company also announced a unification merger of its sister companies in Farmgate Africa and Agricsquare as one entity in order to create a bigger Farmcrowdy in line with its business strategy.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Farmcrowdy, Onyeka Akumah, made these known while briefing journalists on major updates of the company’s activities in Lagos recently.
Akumah explained that the $12 million agricultural investment by the company had allowed it to venture into different parts of agriculture value chain businesses and also empowered many local farmers to boost their productivity.
He stated that as a company, FarmCrowdy operates in 14 states across Nigeria and has signed up over 25,000 farmers into its programme, who have cultivated over 16,000 acres of farmland across the country.
According to him, the cultivated 16,000 acres of farmlands cut across maize, rice, soybeans, cassava, gingers plantation, Livestock and poultry farming.
He said: “We have invested about $12 million through the platform to put into the farms and that allows us to cultivate 16,000 acres of farmlands across maize, rice, soybeans, cassava, ginger. Also, our livestock system sits around 2,000 cows, while we’ve raised 2.2 million chickens in our poultry farms.”
Speaking on the merger and restructuring of the firm,he said: “This is a very significant step for Farmcrowdy as it will allow the combined entity to have a stronger foothold in the agriculture value chain, by dealing with core crop farming processes, production and trading side of commodities as well as marketing media for agriculture.”
Akumah stressed further that the combined companies would now be referred to as Farmcrowdy, and with the announcement, all sponsorship options available from both platforms (Farmcrowdy and Farmgate Africa) will now reflect on the combined Farmcrowdy platform, sponsorship options such as; beef processing, ginger farms, cattle farms, Poultry farms, etc, previously only available via Farmgate Africa and Farmcrowdy will now be open to sponsorship on the Farmcrowdy platform to sponsors from both entities.
According to him, Agricsquare will however continue to be run as a product of Farmcrowdy – the largest community of agriculture enthusiasts in the country with over 20,000 people engaging daily to discuss agriculture-related topics.
He disclosed that the Managing Director of Farmgate Africa, Kenneth Obiajulu, would oversee the trading aspect of the new entity while the Chief Operating Officer, Temitope Omotolani, would continue to oversee the production side (crop production, feedlot production, etc) of the company.
Akumah added further that the process had always been in the plan to attract more talent, expand Farmcrowdy’s reach in the agriculture value chain and provide more options for sponsors on its platform.
“The new Farmcrowdy will now be looking for new partnerships to continue to grow more crops as it targets expansion into four new states while increasing its current supply of over 50 cows fit for slaughter per day to a supply of 100 cows per day by the end of the year made available to top retailers, hotels, and eateries across the country,” he stated.
Pesticides control as catalyst for Nigeria’s cocoa boost
The Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) has released a list of pesticides that should not be used for cocoa production in a bid to accelerate the growth of Nigeria’s cocoa. Taiwo Hassan writes
The importance of applying pesticides and herbicides on planting crops has been there for ages in Nigeria because of infested diseases that feast on crops during harvests.
Particularly, many farmers have acquainted themselves to the use of chemicals during planting of crops so as not to suffer post-harvests loss, which has caused huge losses to the country’s agricultural fortunes and economy in general.
Indeed, the application of these agricultural chemicals- pesticides and herbicides by farmers on crops have been abused in the country since government’s agency such as Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service have failed in its oversight function to regulate the use of chemicals.
For instance, last year, CRIN reported that high cost of chemicals importation into the country forced about 16 cocoa processing firms to shutdown their factories out of the 20 firms, leaving just only four firms in business.
The major reason for the shutdown in cocoa production by these processors was attributed to the cost of buying chemicals at the international market with foreign exchange (forex), which was too high for them since they cannot cope with the forex challenge.
“The chemicals are coming in at an exchange rate of N360 to one dollar. None of those chemicals are produced in Nigeria. Now don’t forget that many Nigerians don’t consume cocoa,” the Institute said.
“Many Nigerians don’t eat cocoa products. If you produce a hundred tonnes and only eight per cent of that is consumed locally, that means your local farmers and factories are not producing for local consumption”.
However, in order to tame the use of chemicals, especially in the country’s cocoa sector, CRIN said it has released a list of pesticides and herbicides that should not be used for cocoa production in the country.
The institute, which has research mandate on cocoa, kola, coffee, cashew and tea, announced this in its bulletin recently.
According to the institute, these insecticides include Acephate, Amitraz, Aldrin, Azinphos-methyl, Carbaryl, Carbofuran, Carbosulfan, Cartap, Terbufos and Cyhexatin. Others are Dichlorvos(DDVP), Dieldrin, Dioxacarb and Endosulfan.
It said fungicides such as Benomyl, Captafol, Hexaconazole, Pyrifenox, Triadimefon, Tridamorph, Zineb, Copper-Sulphate, Carbide and fumigants such as Allethrin, Fenitrothion, Isoprocarb, Permethrin, Resmethrin and Tetramethrin also should not be used.
The institute said that herbicides such as Ametryn, Atrazine, Diuron, Fomesafen, Methyl arsenic acid and 2,4, 5-T had also been banned.
It said, “For fungicides, we have approved Ridomil Gold 66WP with Cuprous Oxide + Metalaxyl-M ingredient, to tackle black pod, Ultimax Plus, with Metalaxyl+Copper Hydroxide to tackle black pod.
“There is Funguran-OH with Copper Hydroxide ingredient to tackle black pod, copper nordox 75 wp, with cuprous oxide, champ DP with Copper Hydroxide, Kocide 101 with Cuprous Hydroxide.
“We have Cabrio Duo with Pyraclostrobin + Dimethomorph, Red force with Copper Oxide + Metalaxyl-m, Pergado with Metalaxyl-m+ Mandipropamid ingredient, all to tackle black pod.
“For insecticides, we have Actara 25 WG with Thiamethoxam, Esiom 150 SL with Acetamiprid+ Cypermethrin, Proteus 170 O-tec with Acetamiprid+ Cypermethrin ingredient, all to tackle Mirid.
“For herbicides, there are touch-down with Glyphosate, clear weeds with glyphosate and round up with glyphosate ingredients, all to tackle weed.
“Then for fumigants, we have Phostoxin with Aluminum Phosphide for storage pests.”
Apparently, this is not the best of times for the country’s cocoa industry despite the role being played by the Federal Government to promote the development of the country’s non-oil sector after the slump in the price of crude oil at the international market.
Nigeria’s cocoa industry is still facing adverse challenges amid the uncertainty in the sector; the low production output target at international scene, state of neglects and lack of agricultural inputs for farming.
Following these myriad of challenges, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has been at the vanguard of re-positioning thr country’s cocoa industry but, their efforts have not yielded the desired results to turn around the fortunes in the sector
Regrettably, in spite of the abundant cocoa in the country, Nigeria is occupying the seventh position among cocoa producers in the world, according to the International Cocoa Organisation, due to her failure to meet its 500,000 metric tons (mt) of processed cocoa production target.
Following the country’s struggling to meet her cocoa production target, this has consequently resulted to huge lose in revenue running into $1 billion yearly.
Speaking with the New Telegraph in an interview in Lagos, the President of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Saiyani Riman, lamented that his members are experiencing qualms in production of cocoa.
He listed unfavourable weather conditions, lack of support from the government as well as the use of fake chemicals by farmers as major factors that are affecting cocoa production in the country.
Riman also identified economic woes orchestrated by Federal Government’s policy summersaults and other farm droughts as other reasons for the inadequacy in attaining growth among cocoa producers in the world.
With the banning of the cocoa chemicals by the sector’s regulator, stakeholders believe that the procurement of fake chemicals would reduce drastically and enhance productivity.
AGRA: Towards sustaining Nigeria’s seed devt
Following the report by the International Seed Federation (ISF) that Nigeria’s seed sector is not yet viable in seed growth, the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) has said that it will be committing about $2 million to fund the production of quality early generation seeds for farmers across the country. Taiwo Hassan looks at the merits
As the rain-fed farming season for this year begins, there is nothing very important to Nigerian farmers than having access to quality and right variety of seeds that will ensure that their expectations for enhanced yields and bumper harvest is not truncated during the harvesting period.
In fact, at this period, merchant farmers understand the role of quality seeds in boosting farm productivity and therefore do attach high premium to it.
However, sourcing for quality seeds in the Nigeria’s agric sector is also a venture that takes the greatest part of their resources and investments following substandard seeds in circulation, which in one way ticked their farm business revenue projection.
Nigeria’s seed industry
No doubt, there are lots of challenges facing the country’s seed sector. But one of the biggest challenges has been that of fake seeds in circulation, which has contributed negatively to the country’s quest to achieve food productivity and security.
Amid the multiplier effect of this fake seeds on agriculture, the Federal Government has been parleying with notable renowned seeds countries in the world to explore areas of collaboration for the development of the agricultural sector in anticipation to changing the country from being a food importer to a food exporter.
Besides, it is no gainsaying that the country’s economy has lost fortunes of foreign exchange to the importation of various seeds from abroad into the country for farmers’ use amid seed deficit in the country.
In one of the fora in Abuja, the immediate past minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audi Ogbeh bemoaned the threat the menace portends to farmers and food security and once declared that he was a victim of fake seeds.
Statistics from the office of Nigeria’s Seed Council- National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) showed that over 70 per cent of people who have no business with seeds jump into the business and sell junk to farmers without getting certified by the Council in a bid to make sharp money.
In fact, the menace of fake seeds in circulation has been a concern for the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari. This has led to the clarion call that the National Assembly should pass the amended bill on the agricultural seed industry for President Buhari to assent in a order to arrest this menace threatening food production and security.
No doubt, farmers nationwide have been complaining against the supply of low quality seeds by government funded agencies and international donor organisations, which they said was hampering the national food security.
Following the Federal Government’s clarion call on seed development in Nigeria, the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) disclosed that it will be committing about $2 million to fund the production of quality early generation seeds for farmers across the country.
Its Country Manager, AGRA, Kehinde Makinde, made this disclosure in Abuja recently at a meeting with the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC) in collaboration with AGRA on the way forward to Nigeria’s seed development.
Speaking at the increasing production and dissemination of quality Early Generation Seeds (EGS), Makinde said that the support to NASC and other seed companies would improve income and food security in the country.
He said that the support AGRA would be giving to the seed council would ensure a better regulation of seed companies, as well as provide support for the available EGS.
According to him, with the project of detecting the circulation of fake seeds, farmers will determine the source of seed they buy.
“If you look at the seed Industry, there is a need for transparency,” he said. “Farmers need to know who are producing seeds to ensure that they get quality seeds at the end of the day.
“So, what we are doing here is to bring visibility to the farmers and transparency to different actors so that people can trace the quality of seeds bought and be assured that their money is not wasted.
“So if you do not have a clear mechanism that provides transparency and visibility, a lot of people will bring in fake seeds and such will affect our productivity in the country.
“Financially, AGRA will be providing about two million dollars for NASC and two other seed.”
The Country Manager added that the project initiative was a consortium of partners known as Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation in Africa, with support from Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID and Rockefeller.
Nigeria’s seed deficit
In its latest 2019 Access to Seed Index report by Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation, it was revealed that Nigeria has around N130 billion ($450 million) in terms of seed deficit in production.
The international seed rating agency also stated that Nigeria’s seed production stood at 800,000 metric tonnes with production unit at 400,000 metric tonnes.
The above figures mean that the Federal Government and the private sector have to intensify seed production in a bid to meet national demand.
Particularly, the survey showed that Africa represents two per cent of the global seed production, with global seed business valued at $50 billion.
Is Nigeria a visible seed nation?
Speaking on Nigeria’s position in the world seed countries, the Secretary General of the International Seed Federation (ISF), Michael Keller explained that Nigeria was yet a viable member of the global Federation.
Keller, who was in Nigeria for the first time to assess the state of the country’s seed industry and how Nigeria can also benefits from the international seed federation, explained that it was regrettably that the country is lagging behind in the global seed trade, which has continued to grow steadily in all fronts.
When asked whether Nigeria is a visible seed country, Keller said: “No. Let me be very open with you; Nigeria is not visible because we do not have any members from Nigeria. Therefore I came here to discover Seed Connect Africa, which is a wonderful event, lots of seed companies here but also public, and politicians. There are some dynamics in Nigeria and there has to be important discussions to have independence in terms of food security and sustainable agriculture perhaps.
Besides, he said, “It’s clear there is a lot of will, openness and interest from the Nigerian side to attract more seed companies from around the world but I will like to insist that it should not only be foreign companies coming to Nigeria.
“What we are looking for, is to create in the country, a vibrant seed sector, which includes local seed companies, farmers cooperatives, which also include opportunities for other companies to come here to settle down here to start seed breeding programmes or production.”
Agric stakeholders are optimistic that the $2 million fund set aside for seed production in the country by AGRA would accelerate development in the sector. However, despite this move, fake seeds are still threat to national food productivity and security because they are still in circulation. Consequently, there is a need for NASS to pass the seed bill.
Farmers chide lawmakers over non-passage of key bills
Agriculture stakeholders have bemoaned the inability of the 8th National Assembly lawmakers to pass into law key agricultural bills that would have spurred the sector into productivity and security. Taiwo Hassan writes
Currently, the major preoccupation of the National Assembly is the election of the Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and their deputies who are expected to lead the 9th National Assembly members for another four years.
Unfortunately, these lawmakers have winded up their tenure without passing some key agricultural bills expected to change the fortunes of the Nigeria’s agriculture.
Consequently, the non-passage of those key bills, including the fertilizer quality control bill and the seed bill are yet to get presidential assent, while a third, the warehouse regulatory bill is yet to be passed by the National Assembly. These are already causing uncertainty among agric stakeholders in the country.
The reason for this uncertainty is not far-fetched, because those bills are critical to making farmers enjoy high yields on agriculture produce as well as create job opportunities.
Fake seed and fertilizer in circulation
Moreover, it is no longer news that the country’s agriculture is currently embroiled in adulterated fertilizer and seeds in circulation, which is resulting to low yields of harvesting among Nigerian farmers who have invested huge amount of money during the planting season.
Particularly, the adverse effect of adulterated fertilizer and seeds in farming cannot be quantified in all ramifications because it brews food shortage and crisis in the country, which ultimately cause famine in the land.
For instance, harvesting of crops is basically an opportunity for a farmer to reap bountifully the outcome of his farm produce.
But currently for some farmers in the country, the joy of making more profits during this harvesting period has turned soar because the fertilizers that were distributed to them are adulterated and this has caused great damage to the crops they planted.
Particularly, the issue of fake fertilizer distribution in the country has been a critical challenge for the three tiers of government and this is threatening the country’s goal of achieving self-sufficiency in food production.
Experts have insisted that it is critical for the lawmakers in the National Assembly to expedite actions for passage of these key agric bills because of their importance to the development and growth of the country’s agric sector.
These bills, according to them, are meant to ensure that Nigerian farmers reap the fruit of their labour, especially on the hard work they put in to ensure availability of food for the populace. So having autonomy over the control and regulation of one’s farm will bring liberty and mass production of food from farmers, the experts had stated.
In addition, they explained that it would also promote adequate manpower, disease resistant varieties and unadulterated fertilizers nationwide.
Besides, they added that it would lead to increased soil fertility, sustainable profit, improved storage facilities and also aid the availability of agricultural produce all year round.
For instance, the seed bill, promoted by the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC), will provide an opportunity to align Nigerian seeds system with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) seed regulatory framework.
It will also ensure regulation of foreign-bred varieties before they are released into the Nigerian market.
The fertilizer bill will also protect the interest of farmers against nutrient deficiencies, adulteration and short weight. It will equally safeguard the interest of fertilizer enterprises.
In his own submission, the Chairman, National Fertilizer Technical Committee, Prof. Victor Chiedu, raised the alarm over proliferation of adulterated fertilizers in the country.
Chiedu, in a phone conversation with New Telegraph, traced the source of fertilizer adulteration to middle men whom, he said, specialise in mixing fertilizer with granulated clay or other harmful substances, which are repackaged into popular fertilizer brands and sold to farmers.
He pleaded with the Senate to pass the bill criminalizing adulterated fertilizer into law, which prescribed minimum of five years jail term for offenders.
House of Representatives had passed the bill, according to him, while Senate consideration is being awaited.
But he pointed out that it was unfortunate that the 8th National Assembly had completed its tenure without the passage of this critical bill into law.
Chiedu, who doubles as Special Adviser to the former Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, said the trend if not checked with effective law as deterrent, poses massive risk to food supply.
“We are making strong appeal to the Senate of the ninth National Assembly to pass this bill together with the Seed Content Bill,” he said. “The law specifies maximum of five years imprisonment for anyone caught adulterating fertilizer but it must be passed and signed into law by Mr. President to be effective. We need this law very urgent to deter people from committing this heinous crime.
“The Seed Element Bill, is equally very important because without good, viable seedlings, the food outputs is threatened.”
Mary Ishaya, a farmer, said the benefits of the bills have not been explained to farmers. She said a lot of vegetables are produced by farmers and they get spoilt due to poor storage facilities.
“Since I grew up, I have never seen a warehouse for agric goods,” she said.
Ishaya, however, said there is a need for the bills to be passed quickly.
She said fertilizers are expensive, as farmers no longer have access to subsidised ones.
Ishaya disclosed that farmers have resolved to use organic fertilizers because they are cheaper “and do not destroy the soil. “We also want to have access to credit,” she said.
A fertilizer expert, Ishaka Buba, said the fertilizer bill will help ensure quality outputs by farmers.
He said many industries produce substandard products. “There is need for the bill so that the product can be regulated,” he said.
Buba lamented that farmers are helpless, as the manufacturers are cheating them.
A member of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Feyi Ajayi, said the bills are important for the economic development of the country.
Ajayi said many farmers put in a lot of efforts but they harvest little or nothing.
“Some fertilizers damage the soil,” she said. “Even after production they (farmers) lack storage capacity.”
Ms. Ajayi said NESG will ensure that the bills are passed into law and implemented.
Similarly, the Managing Director/CEO Nigeria Incentives Based Risk Sharing System for Agriculture Lending (NIRSAL), Aliyu Abdulhameed, made the same position over the bill passage.
“From our point of view in NIRSAL, the problem will be the fertilizer industry itself; it is not question of manufacturer,” Abdulhameed said. “It’s the downstream supply chain that is unstructured, not controlled and regulated.
“The farmer is there at one end of the chain, the manufacturer or importer is on the other end of the chain. What happens between the farmers and the manufactures, the logistics system has to be controlled; the quality control parameters have to be applied even during goods in transit.”
Given the status quo on the passage of these key agric bills in the National Assembly, all eyes will be on the ninth NASS, as a matter of urgency, pass these bills into law to enhance food supply nationwide.
Tackling Nigeria’s huge seeds gap
Latest access to seed index 2019 released by Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation revealed that Nigeria has about N130 billion in seeds deficit. However, the Federal Government says it is planning to collaborate with the Government of the Netherlands on improved seeds/seedlings in a bid to close the gap. Taiwo Hassan writes
The role of seeds/seedlings in boosting food productivity in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasised in all ramifications. The contribution of seeds production towards achieving national seeds demand in Nigeria’s agriculture has been at the front burner of past governments and the present one.
But the challenge the country’s agriculture has faced in recent time is that of deficit in seeds availability in the country arising from low quality seeds in circulation.
Consequently, the inability of low quality seeds in circulation prompted the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify seed production in a bid to achieve sustainability for food production and security.
Consequently, the present administration is already collaborating with key European countries, especially The Netherlands to address the problem of inaccessibility and lack of quality seedling in the country.
Having seed challenge in Nigeria’s agriculture is bound to result to low yield harvests for farmers in terms of their farm cultivation.
Also, the present regime has called upon the private sector to join in the crusade by issuing licenced to about 158 seed companies to commence production of quality seeds in a bid to boost agriculture in addition to the 156 already existing licences.
However, the federal government hinted that it was planning to collaborate with The Netherlands government in the areas of improved seeds, horticulture, aquaculture, poultry and nutrition in a bid to change the country from being a food importer to a food exporter.
Speaking on the effect of fake seeds on Nigeria’s agriculture, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh decried the threat which the menace portends to farmers and food security in the country, starting: “I am a victim of fake seeds.”
He noted : “over 70 per cent of people who have no business with seeds jump into the business and sell junks to farmers without getting certified by the Seed Council- National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC).
“We are going to open extension offices in every local government to monitor the quality of seeds being supplied to farmers. We shall also be compelling agro companies to sell their seeds to authorized dealers. Farmers will be told if you buy seed from anybody else aside the authorized dealers, don’t blame us if you buy fake seeds from them.
“And if they buy from authorised dealers and it turns out to be adulterated, report them to us and we will get the police to arrest them.”
From the position of the minister, it is unequivocally clear that the challenge of the menace of fake seed peddling in the market remains one of the major threats to the food security drive of the present administration.
For the most part, open-pollinated varieties still dominate across the region, in contrast with Eastern Africa and South Asia. The exception is maize, for which hybrid varieties are more commonly available.
In addition, the research showed that for almost half (48 per cent) of the crops, the most recent variety is older than five years, with only a fifth (21 per cent) having a variety less than three years.
It stated the lack of newly developed varieties seriously impacts the resilience to a changing climate and emerging disease and pests, which reduces yields.
Compared to a dozen of companies active in Nigeria and Senegal, the study said only one company is active in each of Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
“Our study shows the potential of homegrown seed companies,” Ido Verhagen, executive director, Access to Seed Index said.
“However, most operate only in their home markets, which causes geographic imbalances in seed sector development.”
Besides, he said this also means that capacity building activities offered by companies only reach farmers in a handful of countries, which limits the adoption of new technologies by farmers in overlooked countries.
He said in the study that the relevance of access to seeds and plant breeding should not be underestimated.
“The number of undernourished people in the world reached an estimated 821 million in 2017 – it’s rising,” he said. “Climate change and weather extremes have been identified as a major reason for the increase. The seed industry has a vital role to play in helping farmers to adapt to climatic challenges while simultaneously raising production levels.”
Value seeds top ranking
Nigeria-based value seeds topped the rankings in new research on seed companies operating in Western and Central Africa, according to the Access to Seeds Index 2019.
However, the overall picture is one of international and African seed companies falling short in delivering quality seed and new varieties to smallholder farmers. This limits the potential to address food security, nutrition and climate resilience, according to a new study by the Amsterdam-based Access to Seeds Foundation.
The study pointed out that there was a growing number of seed companies active in the region, both homegrown and international, stating that less than half of the 23 companies researched conduct plant breeding in Western and Central Africa. Consequently, this limits the release of new varieties adapted to the region, and also explained the high number of varieties that are older than five years offered in company portfolios.
The Access to Seeds Index 2019, the Western and Central Africa ranked value seeds number one. Like most of the other companies from the region, it operates exclusively in Nigeria.
It stands out for its maize and rice ‘value kits’, all-in-one input packages tailored for smallholders. Also, it provides capacity building activities that specifically target women and next-generation farmers.
Verhagen explained that Nigeria’s seed production stood at 800,000 metric tonnes, while production unit was 400,000 metric tonnes.
He also said the study showed the continent represents two per cent of the global seed production, with global seed business valued at $50 billion.
Consequently, lack of quality seedling in Nigeria have taken huge toll on the economy and agriculture at large, prompting widespread of fake seeds in circulation.
Consortium to reduce habitat footprint in rice production
A new global consortium, the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative, is bringing together experts from international organisations, research institutions and business groups with significant market influence to tackle the enormous environmental footprint of rice production, members of the partnership have said.
The new consortium according to a statement, will introduce sustainable approaches to farming practices, incentivise production and demand for sustainable rice with market-based instruments, deliver policy support to governments, and improve knowledge sharing and collaboration on sustainable rice solutions. Rice is a leading cause, as well as a victim, of climate change, and its production impacts many natural systems. Rice is responsible for about the same greenhouse gas emissions as Germany, particularly from methane, which is emitted from rotting vegetation in inundated paddy fields.
Similarly, rice yields and nutritional values are significantly reduced by rising temperatures, and production must increase by 25 per cent by 2050 to meet global demand. Practices such as removing rice straw can reduce methane emissions by up to 70 per cent, but farmers currently lack awareness, training, policy and market support.
The founding members of the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Initiative represent the range of partners needed to make these practices commonplace, namely UN Environment, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Sustainable Rice Platform, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the International Rice Research Institute and the German Agency for International Cooperation. “UN Environment is proud to be a member of the Sustainable Rice Landscapes Consortium. Sustainable rice production is one remedy that can fix a host of issues,” said Dechen Tsering, Regional Director of UN Environment’s Asia and the Pacific Office.
Unlocking economic potentials in Nigeria’s agriculture
With President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term in office already guaranteed, the Federal Government has said it was poised to unlock the full economic potentials in Nigeria’s agric sector. Taiwo Hassan writes
Indeed, Nigeria is on the march again following the successful conduct of Presidential election in the country with the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari adjudged to have won another term in the office based on the poll results.
However, with the impressive performance of the country’s agriculture since assuming office, the President’s zeal to revive agriculture will once again be put to test, as stakeholders in the sector, local and foreign investors and Nigerians are keenly waiting in know whether this administration would still give the required attention to agric sector.
Indeed, the country’s agric sector has enjoyed enormous support from the current administration but reality checks have shown that it is yet to translate positively on Nigerians.
Just recently, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said that his ministry was already working on how to tackle key constraints in the agricultural value chain – from production to consumption-in order to unlock the full economic potentials in the sector.
He, however, said that effective collaboration was required among the tiers of government, the private sector and development partners to achieve the set agenda in the sector.
According to him, as part of the efforts to achieve sustenance in food security and sufficiency, in line with the global target of “zero hunger” by 2030, his ministry-FMARD was working round the clock to ensure that Nigeria fulfilled the dream towards eliminating hunger and poverty.
He said that this was crucial especially at a period when the impact of climate change had proved devastating on food production and food security world-wide, adding that concerted efforts are needed to fight hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition.
Ogbeh stated these at the marking of this year’s World Food Day Walk Sensitisation programme, themed: “Our Actions are our Future- A Zero Hunger by the year 2030 is Possible”, in Abuja, recently.
He stressed that the policy regime of the current administration was built around a number of guiding principles including treating agriculture as business; adoption of agriculture as key to long term economic growth and security; food as human rights, adoption of value chain approach and prioritising crops among others.
The minister disclosed that some of his ministry’s policy interventions have started yielding fruits, particularly in the area of rice production.
“It is now evident that we are on the path to becoming self-sufficient in rice production,” he said. “Indeed, I have no doubt in my mind that Nigeria can be a model for Africa and the world if we join forces and act on evidence.”
Represented by the ministry’s Director, Planning, Policy Coordination and Monitoring Department, Mr. Nasiru Adamu, the minister said that no country can attain food security by depending on food importation.
According to him, agricultural productivity is currently boosted through time provision of fertilizer and other inputs.
“We are also working on the reduction of post-harvest losses and expansion of market access. The policy thrust is now focusing on deepening financial sector engagement with the agribusiness value chains,” he said.
No doubt, the burden of fixing Nigeria’s economy has fallen squarely on Ogbeh’s agric ministry, as the oil industry has floundered and the revenue originating from it had taken a plunge until recently.
To begin with, a framework is already in place in the agric ministry that anticipated what Nigerians presently experience in the country.
Consequently, what Nigeria needs is how to harness the good policies that were met by previous administrations and blend them with those that are currently being fashioning out, in a coherent and consistent manner such that it will instill confidence in the citizens, investors, market operators, farmers, traders and other stakeholders along the various agricultural value chains.
President Muhammadu Buhari has given his support for the interventions that could move agriculture forward and contribute to re-positioning the economy, diversifying it away from over-reliance on oil.
Speaking on the role of his agric ministry, Ogbeh said: “We have taken up the challenge of boosting local production of food as we reduce our dependency on food imports, boost domestic food production, revive rural economy and expand export earnings. With the huge agricultural potential of over 84 million hectares of land, abundant water bodies, particularly the various rivers, all-year-round favourable weather conditions, and a variety of agro-ecologies suitable for agriculture, Nigeria is well positioned to feed its population as well as produce for export.
The low productivity that has characterised Nigeria’s agriculture for decades was partly a consequence of the misplacement of priority, with the oil sector taking the prime place. For this reason, agricultural research nosedived. The various outcomes of many research efforts ended up on the shelf, with no uptake by investors. The high level of importation had deprived the local farmers of competitive edge, and this has discouraged many, leading to mass exodus of rural agrarian population to the urban centres. Life in the rural areas gradually grounded to a near halt, while the urban centres continue to sprawl, with excessive stress on the limited urban infrastructure, increased crimes, growing unemployment and low quality of urban life for most.
With stakeholders and Nigerians waiting anxiously on the policy thrust of President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, removing the constraints impeding growth and development will bring value addition in productivity to this very important sector.
Fishing: Global warming threatens 260m jobs, $4.6bn revenue
About 260 million full-time and part-time jobs globally are threatened if the world does not meet the Paris goal to curb global warming, which is endangering fish numbers, some Canadian researchers have disclosed.
A study by the University of British Columbia compared the economic and environmental impact of holding the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as agreed in Paris in 2015, versus the current 3.5 degrees warming scenario.
Lead researcher Rashid Sumaila, director of the university’s Fisheries Economics Research Unit, said they found meeting the Paris goal would benefit 75 per cent of maritime countries, with the largest gains in poorer nations, by boosting fish supplies.
He said achieving the Paris targets could increase global fishing revenue by $4.6 billion a year.
Fisheries provide about 260 million full-time and part-time jobs globally with seafood products a critical export for developing nations, according to the study published in the journal Science Advances.
But Sumaila warned that failing to curb global warming could threaten the livelihoods and food source of millions of people.
“This can turn into a massive crisis, as it could cause forced migration not only locally but globally,” Sumaila told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a telephone interview.
“A steady supply of fish is essential to support these jobs, food sovereignty, and human well-being.”
Ocean heat – recorded by thousands of floating robots – has been setting records repeatedly over the last decade, with 2018 expected to be the hottest year yet, according to an analysis by the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The study found the Paris deal would push up the total mass of the top revenue generating fish species globally by 6.5 percent, with an average increase of 8.4 percent in the waters of developing countries.
“The largest gains will occur in developing country waters, such as Kiribati, the Maldives and Indonesia, which are at greatest risks due to warming temperatures and rely the most on fish for food security, incomes and employment,” Sumaila said.
Rejection by EU: FG clears air on Nigeria’s agro products
Following the reports that there are lots of Nigeria’s agricultural commodities being rejected by the European Union (EU) at the point of entry, the Federal Government has cleared the air that it is only bean product that is facing suspension while others were due to improper documentations.
Coordinating Director, Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Service (NAQS), Dr. Vincent Isegbe, in a chat with this newspaper said this in Lagos.
He explained that there have been erroneous reports that Nigeria has about 16, 32 and 46 agro commodities that are currently being rejected by the EU over standardization requirement issues in the media.
According to him, it is better to set the record straight that Nigerian commodities are doing well internationally and it is only bean that is suspended by EU among the country’s agro commodity exports and the agency is doing its possible best to ensure that the suspension is lifted on beans.
He said that his agency is responsible for issuing clearance for agro exports and imports in the country, stressing that it is not folding its hands in the area of export control measures in entrenching proper standardization of agro commodities.
Isegbe maintained that other agro commodities have to do with incidental cases, which arose because of improper documentation during shipment of the products.
“Let me start by correcting some erroneous reports in the media: some people have reported that 16 commodities have been rejected; others said 32 commodities, while some said 46 commodities,” he explained.
“The EU has clearly come out to say that for now, it is only beans that has been suspended from going to Europe. The other ones they are talking about rejection are incidental cases; maybe they forged documents or they didn’t get the proper documents or the commodity has an issue, which they will draw our attention to. A
“And if it’s something that we can resolve, like the issue of certificate – maybe because of improper documentation, that can be corrected and the commodity will get passage.
Consequently, he said these are incidental cases, adding that the only commodity, which is under suspension for now is beans, which is being addressed. “That is what the EU said we should address – address export control,” he explained.
“By export control, they mean that we should have machinery in place to ensure that whatever leaves the sores of Nigeria is safe for them in Europe.
“Export control means that those commodities should be inspected and certified by quarantine services. In the process, the criteria for inspection and certification will be put in place. One, there will be no pesticides above permissible limit, no pests. Generally, the commodities will be physically clean, well packaged, labeled and exported with the photo-sanitary certificate issued by NAQS.
“Once that is done, those commodities will be accepted by EU.”
FG moves to ban tomato paste import
Recently, the Federal Government said that it was ready to ban importation of tomato paste into the country to pave the way for the development of the local market. Taiwo Hassan examines its pros and cons
Following series of tomato policy measures embarked upon by the Federal Government in the past to ensure that the country achieves sustainable tomato processing in Nigeria as well as revitalize the tomato industry, the country has finally taken the bull by the horn by moving to stop the importation of tomato paste into the country this year.
Indeed, the move to ban tomato paste import would be a cheering news for local tomato processing firms that had been groaning over their multi-billion Naira investments, which had remained uncompetitive.
Sadly, the Federal Government, had in August 2017, announced the approval of new tomato policy designed to achieve sustainable tomato processing in Nigeria, but the implementation of the new tariff regime did not stem the huge tomato paste importation into the country. This made members of the organized private sector (OPS) and local operators to be pessimistic about the Federal Government’s blue print on new tomato policy that was meant for development of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and large companies who needed to invest in the tomato industry given its potential such as job and wealth creation in rural areas.
Perhaps implementation of the new tomato policy in the sector had been slow, prompting the Federal Government to go back to the drawing board to fine tune ways to solve the challenges in the comatose sector and protect local manufacturing companies.
Floating of monitoring team
However, last year, following series of insinuations and petitions on what is the state of the implementation of the country’s new tomato policy, the Federal Government inaugurated a monitoring team on implementation of its tomato policy to ascertain if policy was working effectively in the sector.
Speaking at the inauguration, the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, who inaugurated the tomato monitoring team said, government was working round the clock to make sure that the approved new regime on tomato was a success after all.
“It is, therefore, important to put in place a tomato monitoring team to oversee the implementation of the policy,” she said.
“The membership of the monitoring team is made up of public and private sector and the processors.”
Abubakar noted that the ministry had been partnering other Ministries, Departments and Agencies to address challenges that could hinder the actualisation of the objectives.
The monitoring team was made up of the Ministries of Industry, Trade and Investment; Finance; Agriculture; Raw Materials Research and Development Council; Nigeria Customs Service; Central Bank of Nigeria; National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC); National Research Institute For Chemical Technology (NARICT) and private sector players.
Among the private sector players were the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Dangote Tomato Processing Limited, Erisco Food Industries Limited, Savannah Integrated Farms, GB Food, Tomato Jos and Springfield Tomato Processing Companies.
The team’s terms of reference include monitoring the implementation of the policy and importation of tomato products and derivatives.
FG’s tomato paste ban
After checks and balances to ensure sustainable implementation of the new tomato policy in the sector, succor came for local operators and others eyeing the tomato paste processing industry following the Federal Government’s announcement last week, that it would place a ban on the importation of tomato paste before the end of 2019.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, dropped this hint during a tour of the Dangote Tomato Processing Plant in Kadawa, Kano State last week.
Ogbeh had stated that the ban would encourage massive tomato production in the country, in line with the current administration fulfillment of the country’s tomato policy.
According to him, government, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Agriculture, had set aside N250 billion to disburse as soft loans to tomato farmers as part of the Anchor Borrower scheme to aggressively develop the tomato industry.
“The Federal Government has set aside N250 billion through the CBN and BoA to disburse as soft loans to tomato farmers as part of the Anchor Borrower scheme,” the minister had said.
“Federal government will continue to encourage Dangote agro-farms and the farmers to grow massive tomatoes in Nigeria and with this kind of outfit; farmers will earn more with better seedlings from the Dangote greenhouse and get better results.”
However, the agric minister said, according to the report, about $22 billion is spent on tomato paste importation annually into Nigeria directly or indirectly through various means, which had monumental effects on the country’s fragile economy.
Also speaking in the same vein, the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, had weighed in his support for leading local operators- Dangote Group of Industries, Erisco Foods Limited, Savannah Integrated Farms, that they had the capacity to reduce tomato paste importation by 80 per cent.
Osinbajo explained that the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari was concerned about the spate of events in the tomato industry, adding that all eyes are on the country’s leading tomato industries to fully fill the gap in reducing the sudden rise in tomato paste importation into the country.
According to him, it was regrettable that the country spent huge foreign exchange in the region of $1 billion to import tomato paste from China, India and the United States of America, spending over $25 billion on food imports annually into the country.
However, following the expected ban of tomato paste importation by the Federal Government and the coming on board of Dangote and other tomato processing plants, Nigeria is on the verge of becoming a tomato paste net exporter soon.
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