Following the criticisms trailing the planned Federal Government’s controversial Ruga settlements scheme in every part of Nigeria, the perennial havocs floods have inflicted on farmlands across the country and other challenges, the agric sector was less impactful in the first half of this year. Taiwo Hassan writes.
Ruga settlements scheme
Indeed, the controversy that emanated from the planned Federal Government’s controversial Ruga settlements nationwide has set the nation on fire!
Specifically, when the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Mohammadu Umar dropped the hint in Abuja recently on plans to go ahead with the scheme on the sidelines of a workshop on Regional Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and associated legislation in West Africa, he didn’t not anticipate the uproar it would create.
Umar had explained that the Ruga settlements pilot scheme would be done in only 12 states and was meant to address the incessant clashes between Fulani cattle rearers and farmers.
But surprising, the Perm Sec, added that government would replicate the programme in selected states as work “is already ongoing in the 12 pilot states”.
With the selected states inclusion in his statement, it there had been wide criticisms from far and near that the scheme would set the country on fire and by extension, affect not only the country’s agric sector, but the economy as a whole.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the Federal Government had allocated the sum of N2.26 billion in the 2019 budget for the development of national grazing reserves.
The amount was contained in the 2019 budget signed into law by the president on May 28.
Specifically, the N2.26 billion is under the budget of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Agric stakeholders have cautioned the Federal Government on its planned Ruga colonies scheme, saying that it would bring set back to the little achievements recorded in the country’s agric sector.
They noted that extending the Ruga settlements scheme nationwide won’t address government’s objective of hegemony between the herders and farmers, rather, it would further bring acrimony in the groups and this will cause further food security in the country.
A source said, “Generally, it is a policy conceived by the Federal Government to cover the entire country. But government decided to discuss it with the states and said states that are willing should indicate interest.
“Of course, the Federal Government is going to carry the states that are interested along. It is mainly between the Federal Government and the interested states, discussions are still on-going and we can’t give a final figure on funding now.
“But we are surprised at the political undertone that this issue is having. Why will a group from Benue stage a protest that government wants to invade their land?”
But following public outcry, the Federal Government announced last Wednesday that it had suspended the proposed Ruga scheme.
Tomato paste ban
As the Federal Government explained that it was ready to ban the importation of tomato paste into the country this year to pave the way for the development of local market, the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Niger State chapter has charged government to salvage the tomato paste industry by putting the right structure in place before banning the importation of tomato paste.
Speaking with journalist in Minna the state capital, the state chairman, Alhaji Shehu Galadima said that the importation of tomato paste into Nigeria diminishes the economic potential of the country.
“I am in support of the planned ban on importation of tomato paste into the country by the federal government “ he said. “This is because the importation is not growing our economy in terms of local and foreign trade.
“You also find out that some of these importers import all kinds of substandard tomato pastes that can be hazardous to the public”.
According to Galadima, the ban would do more harm than good if the right machineries are not put in place to facilitate tomato paste production in the country.
Non passage of agric bills
Another major event in the period under review was the inability of the 8th National Assembly lawmakers to pass some key agricultural bills expected to change the fortunes of the country’s agriculture.
Indeed, the non-passage of key agric bills, including the fertilizer quality control bill and the seed bill, are yet to get presidential assent; while the third, the warehouse regulatory bill, which is also yet to be passed by the National Assembly, are already causing uncertainty among agric stakeholders in the country.
The reason for this uncertainty is not far-fetched as those bills are critical to the country’s farmers enjoying high yields of agriculture produce and creating job opportunities.
Agricultural experts explained that it was critical for the lawmakers in the National Assembly to expedite actions on the 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, were 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 stated.
Global cashew glut
Also, during this period, it was reported that Nigeria’s quest to realise about $1.7 billion from cashew nut exports this year was elusive following the sudden glut in the commodity at the global market, as price volatility, bad conditions of Apapa roads and rejections marred government’s revenue projection targets for 2019.
Unfortunately, cashew nut farmers operating in the country’s agricultural space are not finding it easy this year in their quest to realize foreign exchange (forex) from export of the commodity, as global glut is currently affecting the commodity produce.
In fact, for the first time in many years, this year is assumed to be a lull year for cashew nut farmers, as gluts in the global cashew sector puts their investments in cashew cultivation and plantations and revenue projection targets at risk following price instability, infrastructure decay and rejections at the points of delivery at international ports.
However, to make matter worse, investigations by this newspaper showed that Nigeria’s hub markets, Vietnam and India have refused to uptake the delivery of Nigeria’s cashew nuts because of the inability of their governments to give out loans to processors this year, since they have not been able to offset the facilities for 2018.
Fertilizer chemical ban
Another major activity during the half year review was the pronouncement by the Federal Government that it was planning to gradually phase out the use of chemical fertilizers in agriculture.
Immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, dropped the hint at a forum in Abuja where he expressed worry over the increasing numbers of liver and kidney diseases among young people.
According to him, the objective was to eliminate dangerous elements from foods.
He noted that the move would also help to reduce the damages in the soil through the application of fertilizers.
‘‘We are slowly going to begin to eliminate chemical fertilizers. Organic nature means that this is what nature is all about without polluting it with salt, the chemical fertilizers are salt.
‘‘They damage the soil of all kinds and over a while, you find out that the soil is no longer good for you because they destroy the microbes, which make the soil more productive. We need to make the food healthier because a lot of self-poisoning is going on in the country.”
Also, the return of heavy downpour (rainfall) at the end of the half year under review fueled floods to wreck havoc on many farmlands across the country.
This prompted stakeholders to predict that the country’s agricultural output was set to reduce significantly, as farm investments are at risk – unless the Federal and State governments intervene.
In an interview with New Telegraph in Lagos, the Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Lagos State chapter, Otunba Femi Oke, explained that this year’s flood would bring poor harvests in many agricultural crops in the country due to droughts, which delayed plantings at the start of the 2019 season.
He noted that when the rains finally came, it became rather excessive, as was witnessed in some parts of the country in recent times.
Particularly, Oke said that this year’s floods could halve the country’s 25 million tonnes maize production for this year, while other crops too are expected to suffer same fate with local farmers set to go bankrupt amid disruption of their farmlands.
No doubt, the Ruga settlements policy and floods are expected to continue to shape the direction of the country’s agric sector negatively this year, but stakeholders fear that it could escalate food security challenges in the long run.
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