Few days into the New Year, stakeholders in the agriculture sector in the country have listed their expectations for a better the year 2020.
Among their expectations for the sector are adequate funding for farmers and research institutions, enabling environment and serious commitment on the part of the government to the sector, among others.
In separate interviews with DAILY INDEPENDENT, the stakeholders called on the government to tackle the security issues in the country to allow more farming to take place.
Besides, they advocated on the need to make loans of three and five per cent interest rate available for farmers
Prince Wale Oyekoya, Agriculturalist/Consultant in his view said that farmers’ expectations are high this year, especially with the land borders closure.- Advertisement –
According to him, all eyes are on the farmers to produce more to alleviate the suffering of the populace that the government must provide food and shelter for his citizens and this is the more reason government needs to support the farmers, especially the women in the rural areas.
“Mechanisation is good but the smallholder farmers feed the nation better with the situation in the country now. Our farmers expect the three tiers of government, especially the states to provide more titled land with C of O to the farmers.
He said that funding the sector is paramount to increase in production and that enabling environment will boost production, adding that states should synergise among themselves as it will ease the way business is done among farmers.
He tasked southwest governors to work together and provide modern farm tools for farmers in the zone, saying that facilitation of dry and cold storage facilities will curb post-harvest losses.
Speaking on the insecurity of lives and property in the country, Oyekoya stated decisive tackle of the hydra-headed issues associated with insecurity in the country will allow for more farming in some places where herdsmen and Boko Haram have displaced farmers from their farms.
“Improving on the transportation system to bring farm produce to the cities will reduce the prices of staple foods. The government needs to bring to books politicians responsible for diversion of farmers’ intervention funds for personal enrichment or for the benefits of their cronies. Price control should be re-introduced by the government,” he added.
On his part, Nurudeen Tiamiyu, the National Vice President, Tilapia and Aquaculture Developers Association of Nigeria (TADAN) stated that his expectations are not principally based on the provisions in the budget and the $200million set aside for agriculture in the $30billion loan.
“There is no fund that can cater to a lower single digit of not more than 3 to 5 per cent for now. That is the only driving force that can reduce the cost of food based on the deficit infrastructure we have in Nigeria. Nothing major is expected to change and as we have always said, border closure is not a policy since it can continue forever,” he said.
Oba Dokun Thompson, Oloni of Eti-Oni, who is also the Chairman of Eti-Oni Development Group in retrospect described the year as an interesting period with a lot of talks on investment opportunities and little on funding activities.
He corroborated agitation for increased funding to the research institutes, not just to entrepreneurs for establishment of industries as these researches help to accelerate and expand capacities.
“Our approach to agriculture needs to transform from what we currently do to applying science and technology as the way forward.
“I understand the fact that there may be scarce funds for several sectors but the agricultural sector is one that should be given priority because of the multiple levels of benefits it offers. It ensures food security and addresses issues around malnutrition and healthy living.
Secondly, it can engage millions of people in the area of job creation and thirdly, our economy can easily move to an industrialised one when we begin to add value at every level from production to consumption.
Oba Thompson also stated that Nigeria has an advantage because agriculture in Nigeria is deregulated with free trade and what the government now needs is to put in a lot of mechanisms in place to ensure the free trade and deregulation works for the benefit of all.
“Policies need to change to decentralize and remove obstacles or bottlenecks to enhance the easy deployment of industrial or artisan processes to position locally finished products or brands on store shelves.
“Government agencies must begin to engage the business people to understand the difference between artisan or industrial processes and how these end products are achieved in well-advanced climes and hope that by the end of 2020, the country will be able to boast of more activities through the government’s support as an indication that doing business in the sector has become easier and beneficial to all.
Pastor Adeola Elliott, a fish farmer expresses optimism that government will increase the involvement of Universities agricultural research programmes, stressing that it is high time the Universities of Agriculture in the country adopt different products for maximization of high yields, elimination of diseases, improvement in soil fertility and critical inherent concerns along planting to harvesting.
“Beyond this, the Universities of Agriculture should be able to offer intellectual mechanisms for sound management among the cooperative Unions and Farmers Associations,” he added.
Femi Salami of Oamsal Nigeria Limited envisages a prosperous year for the agriculture provided the government strictly implement existing policies.
These policies, according to him, include the continuous closure of the land borders until the neighbouring countries comply with existing protocols and agreement.
He also said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) promotion of Cassava Values chain should be targeted directly at existing industry players, not some opportunist waiting in the wings to take advantage of government policies like some allegedly did in the Rice value chain few years without any investment locally but got a licence to import rice.
“Under the promotion of Cassava Value chain, I expect the foreign exchange used in the importation of wheat and wheat products to reduce with more MoU to be signed in the High-Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) production up to 10 per cent substitution of wheat with HQCF by Flour Millers of Nigeria thereby reducing continuous creation of jobs to wheat-producing countries of Europe and America.
He urged the Federal government to use the trillions of naira collected from tariff increase in the importation of wheat and products towards local content reduction of wheat import as designed by the fiscal policy paper that effected it as against current diversion of such fund to infrastructure, while the stakeholders that have invested in the High-Quality Cassava Flour sector are suffering.
“I want to see the trillion of naira raked in by the Federal Government from the increase in tariff on the importation of wheat and wheat products to boost local content development of cassava flour.
“From information credited to former Honourable Minister of Agriculture-Chief Audu Ogbeh, the fund expected to boost the Cassava Bread Fund initiative is now being used for Roads, Housing and Power among others as a revenue head while the initial purpose of the fund to develop the local content towards a reduction in importation of Wheat and products is left unattended to. Yet the impact of the wheat tariff hike increased in price of bread since year 2012.
“It is either the government to remove the increase in the wheat importation tariff or use the fund to develop the local content signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan,” he added.
Salami further expressed desire to see genuine patronage of the Flour Millers in HQCF off-take at the right price.
Speaking further, he stated that the menace of cattle herders must be completely curtailed or eradicated for the Cassava stakeholders to enjoy the fruit of their labour.
Nma Okoroji, National President, National Coconut Producers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria (NACOPPMAN) said part of the goal of the association is the establishment of 10,000 hectares coconut plantations in each of the coconut viable states to ensure coconut sufficiency in the country.
She also stressed the need for industrialisation and establishment of processing hubs in the six geo-political zones of the country.
Apostle Kunle Amosu, Kenaf farmer, in his view tasked the Federal government to intensify efforts to assist the real farmers to have access to loans from designated banks.
He said that monies are provided under various lending programmes, but the banks are doing everything to prevent farmers from accessing the funds.
Victor Iyama, National President Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) emphasised that farmers need funding, preferably at five per cent interest rate and improvement in infrastructure.
He said that farmers are looking forward to more organic agriculture and irrigation driven agriculture that will lessen dependence on rainfall.
“There should be more improved seedlings and all that will make farming processes easy, that is what we are expecting so that all we are well this year,” he said.