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How Nigeria can change its food security narrative - NACCIMA

That Nigeria’s economy has been brought to its knees following the glut of oil in the global market, which led to an unprecedented slump in prices is no longer news.
What is worrisome however is how a country endowed with multiple renewable resources, became a major economic casualty to the predictable misfortune of one commodity – crude oil – a non-renewable resource.
However, no matter how tragic it may seem, Nigeria takes consolation in the fact that the country is blessed with excess arable land, sufficient sources of irrigation and a suitable climate for food cultivation, which is a necessary condition to forestall a national state of emergency.
Indeed if not for the capacity to produce what we eat, given the impact of the dwindling revenues from oil, Nigeria would by now have become the Greece of Africa, in need of bailouts and other forms of international aids.
Despite insecurity in the country as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency, which has displaced a lot of farmers from the northern geopolitical zone – a section of the country responsible for about 45 per cent of what is consumed in other parts of the country, Nigeria is still able to feed itself albeit at a ridiculously high cost.
The question that lingers in the mind of analysts however is when will Nigeria have a store of food supplies capable of absorbing economic and security shocks, given its naturally endowed potential? The shocking reality is that for now, Nigeria is still a long way from food security, as recent events have brought the bitter truth out for all to see.
The 55th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) with the theme “Policy Consistency in Agricultural Value Chain: A Key to Socio Economic Development”, was held at Transcorp Hotels, Calabar on the 4th of June, 2015.
The AGM featured the presentation of a lead paper on “Unlocking Nigeria’s Agribusiness potentials Towards a Food Secured Africa” presented by Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, the Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) based in Ghana.
Highlights of major observations and recommendations of the Summit are that agriculture and agribusiness is Nigeria’s and Africa’s priority option for economic transformation, growth and development for the socio-economic development of communities and nations in the years to come.
Secondly agriculture was identified as an important sector of the Nigerian economy employing over 60 per cent of Nigerians including many rural women, and contributing 35 per cent of the country’s GDP. It however regretted that despite the involvement of over 60 per cent of her population in Agriculture, agriculture in Nigeria is largely focused on food crops for the domestic market. Nigeria however, remains a net importer of food largely because of the small scale nature of agricultural operations, with limited innovation regarding inputs, harvesting, processing, distribution and access to markets.
NACCIMA identified Nigeria’s over dependence on petroleum as a major hindrance to agriculture and agribusiness development stating that 95 per cent of the country’s exports are dominated by petroleum and related products thereby shifting focus from agriculture and resulting in severe underinvestment in the sector.
The umbrella body for the organized private sector in the country, recognised that the country has a substantial base to build upon which includes its natural assets including land (39.6m hectares of arable land, of which 60 per cent is under cultivation), climate and rainfall, its coastal areas, and its history as an agrarian economy.
NACCIMA stressed that government should emphasize Agriculture as a key business sector which, like other sectors, requires the engagement of the Organized Private Sector across critical value chains by way of provision of easy and cheap financing and support systems, including equipment, processing, transportation, distribution and marketing support. With adequate support and incentives, this will result in the emergence of small and medium size enterprises which can create value and jobs across critical value chains.
That there is need for effective collaboration between the private and public sectors by way of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in Agricultural development, noting that all stakeholders, the Organised Private Sector which includes members of NACCIMA, Development partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and National governments should take advantage of the PPP strategy in transforming Nigeria’s agricultural and agribusiness landscape where the country’s growth and development is anchored.
According to NACCIMA, the country should borrow a leaf from successful models such as “UniBRAIN” developed by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA),which brings together African Universities, Research Organisations and the Private Sector “to work together, deliver together and win together” along key commodity value chains from production to the plate.
The Chamber urged government to take deliberate steps to drive improvement in the operating environment in terms of provision and/or facilitation of access to security, power (energy), finance, processing, storage and marketing facilities.
It was also noted by the Chamber that there should be a multi-stakeholder approach to policy formulation. “Government should invest more in policy formulation and secure the active involvement of the private sector in policy formulation and implementation to ensure continuity of agricultural programmes beyond the tenure of the government that initiated the policies/programmes. There is also the need for a Committee of relevant stakeholders to agree and develop a strategic roadmap for agricultural development that can outlive successive governments. This is to avoid policy summersault in the event of change of government.”
NACCIMA called on the Government to develop a deliberate policy of restricting importation of agricultural products that can be produced locally in Nigeria and provide incentives for large scale mechanized farming to create employment, achieve increased productivity and self-sufficiency in food production for local consumption and export. “This will save the scarce foreign exchange expended on importation of food, estimated at over USD50 billion annually. There should also be a deliberate policy for the protection of local investors against dumping.”
NACCIMA in its communique appealed to government to facilitate affordable financing and develop/or facilitate the development of infrastructure that supports and enhances agricultural production and profitability. These include construction and/or maintenance of rural or feeder roads, facilitation of transportation services, and ensuring that funding gets to the right farmers/quarters.
On expanding entrepreneurship of groups of women and young people, NACCIMA tasked stakeholders to establish and/or strengthen inclusive public-private partnerships for key priority Agricultural Commodity Value Chains with a strong linkage to small holder agriculture as well as strengthening the capacity of domestic apex private sector intermediary institutions like NACCIMA for inclusive facilitation and coordination to ensure engagement of the private sector in Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) implementation.
Government was further tasked to urgently address the energy challenge in Nigeria, particularly electricity generation and supply which is required for processing, packaging and storage of Agricultural produce. As well as review the existing Land Tenure System and ensure availability of land for large scale investment in mechanized agriculture.
The OPS apex body also urged the government to intensify efforts towards developing one local government one product policy to encourage even development of all states and ensure even development of the Agricultural sector.
 
Culled from the Daily Times, 21 July, 2015
 

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