The FG’s paltry budget allocations and the woes of the agricultural sector

Although Nigeria is touted as Africa’s food plug, the country’s agricultural sector is still far from reaching its full potential. Gilbert Ekugbe writes.

Without mincing words, the Nigerian agricultural sector will continue to struggle until deliberate and concrete steps are taken to address the major concerns plaguing a sector that has the ability to change the economic narrative of the country.

The 291.4 billion naira allocated to the agricultural sector out of a budget of 16.9 trillion naira leaves much to be desired and calls into question the current administration’s commitment to diversifying the Nigerian economy away from hydrocarbon resources .

The N291.4 billion, which represents a marginal increase of around 4% from the N280.3 billion approved budget for 2021, shows that Nigeria is still not ready to activate the full potential of the sector , which has the capacity to help Nigeria. achieve inclusive economic growth.

Despite Nigeria’s commitment to the Maputo declarations of 2003 and Malabo declarations of 2014 to allocate at least 10% of the annual national budget to the agricultural sector, the budget allocation for agriculture does not yet reach 2% of the budget. total.

A country that still depends on hoes and cutlasses to meet its food needs will only end up importing its food needs due to the inability of farmers to meet the country’s food demand. Industry stakeholders have consistently championed the need for the federal government to up its ante by prioritizing investments in the sector.

Unfortunately, in the draft budget presented by the President to the National Assembly, agriculture has only 1.8%, its highest level for four years.

In a conversation with THISDAY, an economist and Managing Director of the Center for the Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE), Dr. Muda Yusuf, argued that the sector was not on the exclusive list and urged all state and local governments to support the development of agriculture. Yusuf pointed out that they have a bigger role to play in the agricultural sector than the federal government.

He said the federal government should pay a lot of attention to irrigation services, research and policy formulation. “The role of politics is very important and it doesn’t cost money. For example, we need a policy that can encourage the import of duty-free tractors. You will see that investors in agricultural space would be encouraged to do much more. Those who import improved seedlings and feedstuffs for animal and crop production should benefit from import duty exemption. All of these policies would help improve the sector,” he advised.

The former chief executive of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) also said that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is doing more than any ministry in terms of supporting agricultural development.

Yusuf also implored the current administration to tackle the challenge of hydra-headed insecurity, noting that insecurity is the most difficult among all the other problems currently facing farmers across the country.

He said, “Farmers cannot go to their farms because they are afraid of being kidnapped or even killed. We need to find a way to address this challenge urgently, as it is already weighing on food prices in the country.

“There is a security issue and nothing on the horizon shows that the issue will be resolved any time soon even as the issue appears to be getting worse. If we don’t address security, how are we going to get people to cultivate and if people don’t grow how do they produce and if they don’t produce how will the price go down.

For his part, the National Chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr. Kabir Ibrahim, said the proposed budget allocation for 2022 represents an increase of N100 billion over the year. former.

In his words, “That’s not to say the agriculture budget can’t be improved, but it is at least an improvement. We can allocate about 4 billion naira to make it a one-time operation as long as we get the desired results.

Ibrahim, however, added that the 10% recommended by the Maputo Declaration has been achieved if all the interventions of the CBN and the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) are taken into account.

He called for increased synergy between CBN and NALDA to have a significant impact on citizens.

“CBN and NALDA should not work in silos without training each other. They should all work together because they all contribute to one pool, but when we put them all together, you’ll find that they contribute more than 15% of the budget, which is more than the 10% statement of Maputo. ,” he said.

He indicated that the budget of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture should not be given to farmers to do anything spectacular, but to create an environment conducive to the prosperity of agriculture.

Ibrahim said: “If the federal government uses the entire budget allocation of 291 billion naira to purchase tractors, for example, it cannot purchase more than 2,000 units and the country needs at least 100 000 units of tractors and even a $1.1 billion loan that we are taking from Brazil is going to come with 10,000 tractors, there will still be a shortfall of about 90,000 tractors. money, but policies favorable to the growth of the sector.

Speaking on the soaring food prices, the AFAN President explained that the situation is due to the weakness of the national currency, stressing that the current development is more an economic issue than an agricultural problem.

He advised the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Finance to consult and added that the economy in 2021 was a mixture of failures and successes.

He said that based on the figures for the fourth quarter of 2021, Nigeria is expected to experience slow agricultural development, saying that activities from the last quarter of 2021 would still manifest.

“We should stop the blame game because we are all involved in this, but certainly the government takes responsibility for everything that happens. But you have to analyze the issues. There are other factors contributing to soaring food prices; we have problems with high transport cost, inadequate power supply to preserve processed foods. In 2022, you have to look at all sectors because so many sectors depend on others. So we need to look at all the issues holistically,” he advised.

The former executive director of the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Mr. Oluwasina Olabanji, said the allocation to the sector is quite low, urging the federal government to invest in achieving food security.

“If a nation does not invest in food security but depends on another nation to meet its food needs, then the nation is doomed. You saw what happened during COVID-19, when other countries closed their borders to other countries for almost three months. So imagine how we would have survived those three months if we had depended on other countries for certain food products?

“Agriculture is very critical and the current administration is doing its best to ensure food security because it has the political will, but have we reached that period yet when Nigeria can boast of having a pyramid of groundnuts in Kano or boast of being the second largest cocoa producer in the whole world.We need to invest more in agriculture.

He added: “Food is very important for a nation. This is part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which emphasize food security for all nations and for us to achieve food security we need to invest in agriculture. But the budget allocation to agriculture is still too low.

He further underscored the need for Nigeria to invest more in irrigated agriculture, adding that climate change is negatively affecting the productivity of Nigerian farmers in their quest to meet the country’s food needs.

“Technology has advanced because innovation is disruptive and affecting the whole world as we speak. The way we conduct our research before is totally different from what is practiced across the world. We also need to promote the system of irrigation because climate change is taking a toll on our productivity levels. For us, promoting irrigated agriculture means we need to invest more in our River Basin Development Authority. We need to invest more in irrigation. There should be more emphasis on the promotion of irrigated agriculture,” he said.

Lana T. Arthur