Interview: Audu Ogbeh
How would you assess the effectiveness of the Agriculture Transformation Agenda (AGA)?
AUDU OGBEH: The AGA has made considerable progress since 2011, although it has had its limitations as well. The Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme was quite successful in 2012 and 2013, but ran into difficulties when too many companies and individuals became involved in the distribution of fertiliser and seeds. The e-wallet scheme worked for many farmers, but was not useful in areas of the country with an unreliable network. The year 2015 was relatively quiet for the AGA, as the presidential election and the appointment of the cabinet slowed plans. Now that the ministry is in place, we are aiming to revitalise the agenda to support millions of Nigerian farmers.
In the past few months we have prepared a “soil map” that helps farmers determine the specifications of their soil and the appropriate type of fertiliser to use. We are expanding the GES scheme to cover new crops and value chains. Nigeria must not only focus on the self-sufficiency of staple crops, but also aim to replace oil and gas as the sole foreign exchange earners. Therefore, we must pay attention to grains and cash crops such as sesame seeds, cashew nuts, cassava and cocoa. Another focus area is cattle grazing, as conflicts between farmers and cattlemen are widespread. There are 400 official grazing reserves in Nigeria, but many are no different from any other patch of land and are poorly maintained. We aim to reorganise these reserves by developing grazing patterns on a nationwide scale.
How effective have the government’s efforts been in reducing Nigeria’s food import bill?
OGBEH: Over the years, efforts to reduce Nigeria’s food import bill have been slow, as high oil revenues made importing agriculture products very tempting. The drop in global oil prices has forced the country to reimagine its agriculture sector, and there are many opportunities to reduce the food import bill. Wheat production, for example, is set to expand from 350,000 tonnes per year to 1m over the next 12 months. Nigeria’s fish import bill is approximately $600m, but is slowly being reduced by boosting fishing on coastal waters and artisanal fishing. Cattle farming is another area where improvements can be made. By improving animal nutrition and livelihood, we can lower the $1bn bill spent on dairy products.
What impact have the Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZs) had on investment inflows?
OGBEH: Progress with the SCPZs slowed towards the end of 2015, but as soon as the 2016 budget is passed we will be working with full vigour. We are in contact with international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, that are interested in becoming more involved in the initiative. We are also hoping that Nigeria’s state governments will be active participants. For the agriculture sector to achieve sustainable, long-term growth, young people must become more engaged in farming. We are aiming to increase interest by creating agro-processing camps on the outskirts of major cities. Young Nigerians interested in agriculture will be able to obtain land and favourable loan terms to start their own farms.
Over the years, high interest rates have held back the agriculture industry’s growth, and new farmers lacked the collateral to acquire the land needed. We must treat agriculture as an “infant industry” and support local farmers. The Central Bank of Nigeria has a few programmes which have had some success, but we believe the Bank of Agriculture should be the primary credit lending institution for farmers. The ministry has plans to remodel and partially privatise the bank. All intervention funds for farmers will go to the Bank of Agriculture, and we aim to offer single-digit interest rates. We believe this can play a key role in growing the scope and depth of the industry.
You have reached the limit of premium articles you can view for free.
Choose from the options below to purchase print or digital editions of our Reports. You can also purchase a website subscription giving you unlimited access to all of our Reports online for 12 months.
If you have already purchased this Report or have a website subscription, please login to continue.