By Olugbenga Adanikin
The Africa Centre for Food, Agriculture and Sustainable Development (Afri-CASD ) yesterday said the Federal Government can generate more revenue into its coffers if the agriculture sector is given similar priority as the upstream and downstream sector.
Afri-CASD Programme Manager, Mr. Bolaji Akindehinde disclosed this in a statement issued yesterday in Abuja.
He stated that the agricultural sector could takeover from oil if President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to ensure every food commodities consumed are produced locally.
According to the statement, the country is enriched with sufficient land mass and experts capable of making the nation food sufficient rather than continued dependency on imports.
However, the Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) urged the President to consider the appointment of an expert to oversee affairs of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
He stated that such individual irrespective of gender should be able to improve and surpass achievement of the immediate past agriculture minister, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.
According to Afri-CASD, over-dependence on oil had resulted to an imbalance in the country’s economy, adding that the country stands to create wealth from agriculture if properly harnessed.
Akindehinde expressed dissatisfaction over the current state of the sector despite huge amount expended by the immediate past administration in an effort to reposition it.
Consequently, the statement identified initiatives especially the value-chain programmes of the immediate past administration that should be improved upon by the current government.
These include; the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (ATA) which includes the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) a youth-led initiative to get youths involved in agriculture by forging a plan that would create the next “Nagropreneurs’’ in the country.
Also, the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) aimed at providing financial support for agricultural productivity, value-added processing and market linkages.
The statement reads in part;”what we have noticed, so to say is that despite the various initiatives and billions of naira the past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan spent on the agricultural sector, there is nothing to show for it. Farmers are still complaining bitterly and to crown it all, the various grants made available for farmers do not get to those in the grassroots.
“Most of them still complain of underpricing of agricultural produces, post-harvest losses among other factors. There was a time a woman farmer in Osun state lamented how farmers especially women farmers are being treated in the country.
“She said despite the promises made by the government, in terms of providing seedlings and affordable fertiliser for farmers and other grants but you find out that most of this things we are saying do not reach the people who need them and who are these people? They are in the grassroot.
“Don’t forget, if you are looking for real farming go to the villages, but what do we see? So if Nigeria will get it right in the area of Agriculture to relieve the oil sector, the Federal Government FG needs to put in place measures that will not only encourage people investing in agriculture but would also bring about food security.
“Take a look at China, India and Russia and few other countries, they frequently appear as leaders in terms of Agricultural produces. It is worthy to note that China is the leading worldwide producer of rice, but it’s also the leading producer of wheat and the number two producer of corn, as well as the largest producer of many vegetables including onions and cabbage.
“We can grow these things in Nigeria, we have massive land, that is fertile, flowing with milk and honey but what do you see? We still import rice, onions and other food commodities. It’s not supposed to be. We need to rise up to the challenge and save our economy.”