Monday, 11 April 2011


 It is widely accepted by the government, NGOs and private individuals that Nigeria is in a food crisis. It lacks food security despite numerous agricultural potentials.

 This situation poses a big question as to what is responsible for the insecurity in food production, preservation and storage, in a country that has fertile land and the potentials to feed not only itself, but even the entire African continent.

This is coming at a time when the country is said to have made huge financial investments in the agricultural sector. Successive administrations have come up with different programmes and policies with the aim of putting food on the table for its people. Yet, almost 50 years after independence, many Nigerians cannot afford three square meals.

It was in the light of this that the Senate, last year, unanimously adopted a motion sponsored by Senator Andrew Babalola, the Vice chairman of the Senate committee on Agriculture, to examine the Nigerian food crisis and the entire agricultural sector.

Senate President, David Mark, set up the committee with Senator Idriss A. Umar as the chairman. The committee went into action and called for memoranda from different stake holders and organized public hearings where so many startling revelations were made on the pathetic situation of the country, with regard to agricultural production and food security.

The committee, after concluding the public hearing, went round the country to study some of the claims made about different agricultural production projects, ranging from irrigation projects to silo construction.

The Federal Government had initiated a number of laudable policies in agriculture: From Operation Feed the Nation to Green Revolution, Back to Land and the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure, but the nation still spends billions of Naira on importation of major food items.

On paper, agriculture has been the major driver of Nigeria’s economic growth and development over the last 10 years.

According to the latest report on the contribution of the sector to national economy growth, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent from the National Planning Commission, the agricultural sector grew at average Gross Domestic Product rate of 10.5 per cent within the period under review.

Specifically, the document titled “Vision 20:2020, The First National Implementation Plan”, stated, “ Agriculture remained the highest growth driver of the Nigerian economy growing by 10 per cent on the average and contributing about 73.1 per cent of output expansion annually throughout the period.”

The report noted that crop production, which was driven largely by favorable weather condition, was the dominant agricultural sub-sector growth driver with an annual growth rate of 11.5 per cent.

Experts say Nigeria’s huge spending on fertilizer subsidy has not impacted on the sector. For instance, in the 2009 crop season, the country spent N50bn to purchase 500,000 metric tones of fertilizer.

While the scheme is intended to benefit small-scale farmers for increased crop yield, the real beneficiaries have been rent-seeking government officials, fertilizer merchants and agents.

Similarly, it was learnt the commodity price support schemes, the strategic grain reserve scheme, the river basin development authorities and scrapped commodity boards only benefited merchants, contractors and government agents and not the small-scale farmers.

Despite the Federal Government’s laudable policies and huge budgetary allocation to the sector, the country is currently spending billions of naira on importation of major food items.

For instance, the latest statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria showed that the country spent N155bn on importation of rice in 2010. The CBN Governor, Mr. Lamido Sanusi, said this in Kaduna at the Northern Nigeria Economic Summit organized by the Northern Political Summit Group, otherwise known as the G20.
While presenting the lead paper titled, “Mobilizing Capital for Transformation of Northern Nigeria,” Sanusi said that it was regrettable for the country to be a major importer of rice when it had good climate and resources to produce the staple locally.

He said, “$1bn was spent to import rice in 2010 because a few greedy people are benefiting from the importation. Some states in the North are poorer than Niger, Cameroun and Chad, even when agriculture constituted 42 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria and nobody is paying attention to this critical area of economic growth and national development. The North has hide and skin, yet we do not have leather processing industries in the region.”

In 2008, Nigeria’s total food and agricultural imports were valued at approximately $4bn. In 2009, the Ministry of Agriculture put the amount spent on food imports, mainly rice, wheat, sugar and fish products, at N555bn.

Investigations, however, revealed that the sector is currently being plagued by policy and funding inconsistency as well as inefficiency in the implementation of various programmes aimed at boosting food security.

According to findings, in 2009, more than N400bn was injected into the sector, while in 2010, agriculture accounted for only 3.7 per cent of budgetary allocation (recurrent N34.4 bn and capital N49.9 bn). However, between 1977 and 2005, government’s funding for the sector was characterized by inconsistency. In 1977, agriculture’s share of the national budget was less than one per cent; in 1980, 1.3 per cent; 1982, 4.2 per cent; 1983, six per cent; 1984, two per cent; 1985, five per cent; 1993, 3.2 per cent; 2000, one per cent; 2001, 4.2 per cent and 2005, 1.6 per cent.

Speaking on the problem of policy inconsistency, the Minister of Agriculture, Prof. Sheikh Abdullah, said, “Nigeria’s agricultural development has always been involved in the search of a holistic policy framework that should address the myriad problems that are inherent in the sector. Thus, policies from the era of Operation Feed the Nation, Green Revolution, Back to Land to the establishment of the Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure yielded little results in strengthening the entire value chain process as undue emphasis was placed on production that often leads to glut, post-harvest losses and food insecurity in the country.”
In an interview with our correspondent, the Secretary General, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria, Mr. Akin Gbadamosi, said lack of political will on the part of the government to implement past and current agricultural policies was responsible for the country’s inability to achieve self-sufficiency in food production.

He said, “Nigeria has no business importing food items. The problem is that the budget is not being judiciously implemented. There is need for the government to work with commodity associations to be able to achieve meaningful result.

“Currently, agriculture contributes 43 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP while cocoa contributes 23 per cent. Formerly, Ghana and Nigeria were the world’s largest exporter of cocoa. But the story has changed for the worse due to poor implementation of government policies and programmes.

He added, “Nigeria is blessed with more arable land than the countries from where we import food items. The fertilizer that is supposed to help peasant farmers boost cocoa production is not at the reach of the ordinary farmers.”

But the Minister of Agriculture, Abdullah, said the ministry had made giant strides in its efforts towards achieving food security for the country.

He said, “In the fertilizer sub-sector, the ministry has continued to provide subsidy support for farmers in Nigeria under the Fertilizer Market Stabilization Programme.

“Between 2007 and 2009, a total of 1.23million metric tones of fertilizers was procured and distributed to the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory at the cost of N29.16bn.

However, in 2010, the Federal Government provided the sum of N22.30bn as 25 per cent subsidy for the procurement and distribution of 900,000 metric tones of fertilizers to the states and FCT valued at N89.31bn.This intervention represents the highest provision in any single year since the inception of this programme in 1999 to date.

The Vision 20:2020 report projected that the sector would grow at an annual rate of 6.7 per cent within the next three years.

The growth in the sector will be bolstered by government’s initiatives, which are aimed at increasing commercial agriculture.

The report said, “The agricultural sector will be favored by increase in terms of trade, due to increasing demand for bio-fuels. However, the sector is projected to decline slightly in its contribution to real GDP to 40.1 per cent during the plan period, compared with 41.8 per cent in 2004 to 2009 as a result of diversification of efforts.”

In order to boost food security, achieve self sustenance in food production, and attain the Millennium Development Goals of reducing by half the number of hungry people by 2015, the Federal Government inaugurated the National Special Programme for Food Security in 2007.

According to Food and Agricultural Organization, the Federal Government is expected to spend about $45m to implement the NSPFS programme, whereas the Food and Agricultural Organization would offer the technical and managerial support on demand to the Federal Government.

The objectives of the NSPFS are to improve national and household food security and reduce rural poverty in an economically and environmental sustainable way; to improve household food security and incomes though increases in productivity, diversification and sustainable use of natural resources; to enhance food security of consumers through improved access to and availability of food and also increase income of producers through more efficient marketing.

According to the National Food Security base document, published in August 2008, Nigeria is expected to achieve self -sufficiency in the production. Specifically, the Federal Government’s projections for the various crops between 2008 and 2011, include: increasing production from 2.8 million metric tones of paddy to 5.6 million metric tones rice per annum by 2011; achieving 500,000 metric tones of local production of wheat to avoid over dependence on wheat importation; meeting the national demand for sugar estimated at 2.2 million metric tones per annum, among other things.

But where are we now with all these Paper work?

We hope all these laudable projects come true as the new government that will take over as a result of the ongoing General Elections