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Agric 2021: Still vast room for improvement

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Agriculture is central to Nigerian economy providing the main source of livelihood for most of its citizens.

  The farming sector of the country employs about 70 per cent of the entire country’s labour force.

   With the COVID-19 pandemic which affected almost every aspect of life, it negatively impacted the sector because of supply chain shortfalls that created problems for farm holders.

   Nigeria’s agricultural sector contributes to a significant part of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Between July and September 20021, agriculture contributed to almost 30 per cent of the total GDP, an increase by six per cent compared to previous years.

   The sector under review is one of the non-oil sectors which have made significant contributions to the GDP accounting for a 22.35 and 23. 78 per cent in 2021.

Each sector of the economy experiences a lot of transformation which help in yielding good production that will boost the economy.

  The Agric sector is being transformed by commmercialisation at the small, medium and large scale enterprise levels.

The government’s transformation agenda aims to treat small farm holders as enterprises and drive farmers to become business people.

   The agricultural sector is brimming with massive investment opportunities across the value chain, for both local and foreign investors with favourable policies of the government aimed at making the sector a viable base of the economy.

  The development framework for the agricultural sector is captured in the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP), which sets out strategies for stakeholders to build a suitable agribusiness economy with the capacity to attain food security, economy diversification, job creation and import substitution.

  Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has continued to assist the agricultural sector in 2021. The CBN as part of government policy to increase food production and security in the country, intervened in the sector through schemes like the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme ( ABP) and the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme.  These projects among others have tremendously helped to reposition the agriculture sector in the country. The chief among these initiatives that became the epicenter of the agric revolution is the ABP.

  This intervention is targeted at improving local production of four commodities namely; rice, fish, sugar and wheat. These interventions have helped improve access to financing and procurement of modern equipment for participants in the sector.

  Within the period under review, the sector has recorded progress in boosting the production of affordable fertilizer necessary for agriculture activities. This effort will increase the supply and reduce the cost of the commodity were in some cases undermined by middlemen.

  Another transformation is significant involvement of private investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value- chain and these have continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  During year 2021 World Food Day, President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration had set aside N600 billion loan to support 2.4 million farmers across the country.

  President Buhari said farmers can assess the loan through the Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support project (APPEALS).

  According to him, the gesture will support farmers in the country to improve their productivity aimed at boosting the countrys food security, improving farmers production and increasing exports.

 In Anambra State, Governor Willie Obiano was able to record unprecedented success in agriculture because he believes that the farm of the future must fulfill three important promises –  it must feed the people, it must protect the environment and it must offer a healthy return on investment.

  In Anambra, land utilisation also increased and stands at over 95,200 hectares due to the influx of more people into agriculture.   Today, Anambra has over 160,000 farmers and 3,000 co-operative societies duly registered. Most of our farmers have made a swift transition from one season farming to year-round farming with the increasing use of irrigation and the adoption of global best practices in agriculture.

  Anambra State has advanced remarkably towards food sufficiency in the seven years of the Willie Obiano administration. As a major pillar of his development blueprint for the state, Governor Willie Obiano provided funding to support agriculture and created an enabling environment to encourage investment in the sector.

  Gov Obianos strategic focus on mechanising and commercialising agriculture and a sustained passion for effective development in the economic value chain, gave impetus to a massive revolution in agriculture. This yielded significant results as harvests became bountiful and outputs grew rapidly.

Under the governors watch, rice production in Anambra State increased from 80,000 metric tons in 2014 to 345,000 metric tons in 2020. A projection of 525,000 metric tons yield has been made for 2021. Popular indigenous brands of Anambra rice are competing strongly in the markets all over the nation. They have also easily become the rice of choice in many homes.

  To create entrepreneurial and employment opportunities in the communities, Governor Obiano recently embarked on the building of three fish villages in the three senatorial zones of the state. In the villages, youths will be trained in the entire value chain while active production and processing of fish continues for local consumption and for export.

  All these efforts aim to increase agricultural productivity in order to provide enough food to meet domestic demand as well as an abundance of commodity crops for export in the international market.

  Despite the contribution to the economy, agricultural sector still faces many challenges which impact on its productivity. These challenges have stifled agricultural productivity affecting the sectors contribution to the country’s GDP as well as increased food imports due population rise hence declining levels of food sufficiency.

  These include; poor land tenure system, low level of irrigation farming, climate change, poverty, insecurity and land degradation. Others are low technology, high production cost and poor distribution of inputs, limited financing, high post-harvest losses and poor access to markets.

  Looking ahead, we expect the agricultural sector to remain at the forefront of Nigeria’s diversification plan. Thus, we expect the federal government to sustain its interventions in the sector to drive growth. We expect an improved FG policy response, particularly on long-standing issues such as land use, farming methods, and farming input quality. As the pandemic abates globally and locally, we expect growth in the Nigerian agriculture sector to improve.

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