Business

Experts urge farmers to bridge crops gap

Farmers in Nigeria have been tasked to produce crops and other produce based on guided industrial demands to reduce gluts, marketing challenges, gross importation and capital flight, as well as to build economic resilience based on agriculture. Nigeria is deficient in production of most crops, and industrialists do capitailise on this to import virtually all industrial crop into the country at the detriment of building local ones. This has discouraged most farmers, and put the country in a difficult agro-economic position, causing too much pressure on the exchange rate and fueling inflation, unemployment and rising poverty level amid industrial failure. According to a survey by the Food and Agriculture Services (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture, Nigeria is deficient in maize, rice, wheat and oil palm production, among others.

However, there are areas of strength, such as cocoa, cashew, ginger, turmeric, garlic, cassava, yam and beans, moringa seeds and leaves, among others, which the country produces in excess. However, industrial users spend billions of dollars yearly importing agricultural raw materials that the country is capable of producing, ranging from oil palm to beverages.

Indeed, experts have analysed that jobs and incomes are exported when Nigeria imports those raw materials, and cost of production is escalated in the process. Nigerian farmers have not been able to explore the opportunities available from several multinationals companies in Nigeria, which rely solely on imports for their production inputs. Meanwhile, Managing Director of Agri Capital Limited, Mr Dayo Olunowo, has said that the company was ready to help farmers to overcome these challenges, which, in turn, would enrich farmers in the 2021 farm season. Speaking at the company’s launch of its 2021 farm season programme tagged: ‘ISP 2021,’ he mentioned that the focus of Agri Capital was in three dimensions.

The first, he said, is import substitution – which ensures that Nigerian farmers cultivate the crops that dominate Nigeria export, and these include spices like thyme, turmeric, coriander and white onions. The second aspect is closing the gap between farmers and multinationals through training of farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) to meet the produce standards of such organisations. Olunowo, who is a farm assurer with Global Gap, said: “As a qualified professional that understands the standard procedures, we will ensure that farmers are empowered to operate and adhere to the standards.”

Agri Capital, he added, was already working with FA-10 Group and some state governments to interpret the Global Gap operational procedure documents into three Nigerian languages. Asked on what crops the multinationals were requesting from farmers, he explained that Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP), cassava, thyme, turmeric, garlic, ginger, and vegetables, among others, were in demand. Meanwhile, Dr Akin Oloniruha, a former provost of the Federal College of Agriculture, Kabba, an affiliate of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, corroborated the position of Olunowo, saying benefits of producing for exports and industrial import substitution include job opportunities for farmers, aggregators, investors, youths and exporters.

Producing for specific purposes also guarantees steady market and stable prices on which farmers and investors could make expansion and business projections. Professor Lateef Sanni, a root and tuber crop specialist in IITA, said deepening industrialisation of any produce in Nigeria had multiplier positive effects on gross domestic product (GDP), poverty alleviation, wealth generation and employment opportunities for youths.

 

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