Buhari’s Foray Into Agriculture By Chukwudi Enekwechi
It has been repeated at several fora that Nigeria’s over dependence on oil as the only source of revenue has remained a sore point in our national economic growth and development. With the federal cabinet in place, and President Buhari’s marching order to the ministers to help deliver on the “change agenda”, I foresee a cohesion and integration of various sectors (MDA’S) in actualising the programme of economic reformation.
Specifically, let me dwell on the agricultural sector which is expected to play a significant role in the federal government’s plan to diversify the economy. In this sector we can boast of products that can compete well at the international market, such as cashew nuts, palm produce, cotton, groundnut, cocoa, fruits like mango, oranges, pineapple coconut, banana among others. Incidentally, most of these products are needed in commercial quantity in various parts of the world, where we can earn foreign exchange.
In the light of dwindling revenue from oil, the only option available to us as a nation for survival is to hurriedly concentrate on agriculture by exporting the by-products to Europe, America and Asia. This measure will not only boost our revenue-earning capacity but will stimulate our local economy and enhance our balance of payment with other foreign countries.
The recent launching of dry season farming in Kebbi state by President Buhari is a further demonstration of his administration’s commitment towards self-sufficiency in food production, as well as creating a conducive environment for stimulating the nation’s economy.
In a changing world like ours where sources of nations’ incomes are gradually shrinking, t is only reasonable that Nigeria takes proactive measures towards absorbing the shocks associated with dwindling oil prices. There is no doubt that an all year round farming will definitely improve on our productivity, create jobs and raise our revenue- earning capacity.
To realise the objectives of the agricultural policy as enumerated above, there is the need to raise the bar in terms of quality control. Obviously, for our agricultural products to compete favourably in the international market, measures must be taken at ensuring that high quality is maintained before the products reach the global market. In this regard, there may be need to recruit and train farmers and agricultural experts in quality control.
Similarly, quality control laboratories ought to be established in at least the six geo-political zones where some of the farm products can be tested ahead of exporting them to foreign countries.
Additionally, the agricultural value chain must be enhanced in a manner that from the planting to processing and exportation, all necessary measures must have been taken to minimise losses. If the vision of Mr. President in launching the dry season farming is sustained, there is no doubt that we can begin to reap the short, medium, and long term benefits derivable from the agricultural sector.
Government on its part should begin to dust up the various reports gathering dust in their shelves with a view to jump starting the sector as an integral part of the nation’s revenue earners.
It is consoling that President Buhari has put a square peg in a square hole by appointing a renowned agriculturist and farmer, Chief Audu Ogbeh as his new minister of agriculture. As a renowned administrator, Ogbeh will bring his vast knowledge of the sector to bear in revitalising the sector.
To realise this objective, Ogbeh should create the enabling environment for agricultural industries to move up the value chain, and thrive as profitable ventures. This is also where appropriate pricing of agricultural outputs, especially for the exportable products come into play. It is only when we are able price our agricultural products adequately that we can add value to them at the international market.
Whereas the immediate past minister of agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina propagated the Agriculture Transformation Agenda which made tremendous impact, Chief Ogbeh ought to leverage on the existing template by developing a workable blueprint that can be applied as quickly as possible for the realisation of immediate and long term gains.
So far, it can be adduced that while most Nigerian farmers are able to eke out a living from their subsistence farming activities, productivity remains low and sustainability doubtful. Thankfully, President Buhari’s economic policy is aimed at revving up the agricultural sector by modernising it, and utilising modern technology and methods in the present dispensation.
To successfully revitalise the sector, we must develop high-yield crops, better irrigation systems and facilitating market access for both small-scale and large-scale farmers. Also, farming enablers such as fertilisers, seeds, pesticides and machinery should be readily provided to enable farmers meet set targets. There is no iota of doubt that the President Buhari administration is determined to create an enabling environment for agriculture to become Nigeria’s second major revenue earner after oil.
Therefore, all players and stakeholders in the sector must strive to key into this vision of President Buhari, if our desire to enjoy a future where the nation is able to feed herself and become self-sufficient in food production and still in a position to export our agricultural products can be realised.
Gladly, all the necessary factors of production are in place and now we have a president who is proactive and possesses the requisite political will to help realise the lofty objectives.
An Abuja Based Public Affairs Analyst