As a stakeholder in the joint project called Nigeria, and as a practitioner of many years in the agriculture sector, I know that it is time we focussed on other sectors of the economy aside oil. Agriculture is one sector which can make us self-sufficient in food production and we all know that food importation is one area that drains the country of its forex reserves.
Also, making agriculture the mainstay of our economy will provide employment for our unemployed youths, as it would no longer be viewed as a developmental project, but as a business that is capable of generating growth.
Nigeria remains the most populous in Africa, the 7th globally with an estimated population of over 180 million. As good as it sounds, going by the huge market it provides for business, also comes a threat. How can a people of this magnitude feed and survive when local food
production is continuously on the decline? Before the discovery of crude oil in 1956, agriculture was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and we recorded low unemployment rate and minimal social vices and civil unrest. In the heydays of the agric sector, raw materials such as cocoa, rubber, palm oil, groundnut, timber, among others, were exported in
large quantities to industrialised nations, thus, making Nigeria a major exporter of these products. Things changed when crude oil came on board, government shifted its attention and this naturally, led to decline in agricultural activities. Now, experience has shown that only the oil sector cannot sustain the nation. There is need to boost the agric sector to enable the country produce enough food to feed its teeming population, provide jobs for the youth and generate more revenue into the coffers of the state.
The National Food Security Council recently inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari has a mandate to among other things address all problems capable of creating food security crisis in the country, but government should ensure the success of the programme by frontally tackling all the challenges that mitigate against food sufficiency in the country.
High interest rate is affecting the growth of the agriculture sector and to stimulate a whole lot of agricultural production, it should drop to single digit, not more than 5 per cent with less cumbersome collateral conditions.
Government must also address the farmers/herders clashes because of the deleterious effects they have on food production. Also, rebranding agric insurance for food security is needed, as it will boost food production.
Chief Emmanuel Folorunsho Ogunnaike, is the former vice chairman, Poultry Association of Nigeria.