By Cyril Okonkwo
Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo says self-sufficiency in food production remains a major pillar of the economic policy of the Buhari Administration.
Prof. Osinbajo spoke on Sunday at the 4th National Discourse on Food Security of the Companion, at the University of Lagos.
President Muhammadu Buhari has set a clear direction with his declaration that Nigeria must produce what we eat and consume what we produce.”
“We have backed that with substantial budgetary allocation to agriculture from N8.8 billion in 2015 to N46.2 billion in 2016; and N103.8 billion in 2018. Agriculture grew by 14.27% in 2018,” he stated.
According to Prof. Osinbajo, “through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which the President launched in Kebbi State in November 2015, credit is given directly to smallholder farmers, through the CBN and 13 participating banks.
“So far, credit totalling N120.6 billion has been given to 720,000 smallholder farms cultivating 12 commodities including rice, wheat, cotton, soya beans, cassava, poultry and groundnuts, across the 36 States and FCT.
“The Anchor Borrowers Programme is now digitized, with all farmlands’ GPRS mapped, bio-metric data of farmers captured, electronic cards issued and specific inputs are required. This has enhanced traceability and enhanced productivity and yield.”
The Vice President further stated that in order to improve a local blending capacity, a fertilizer programme has been launched in collaboration with Morocco.
“Today we have 11 Fertilizer Blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million. Fertilizer price has since dropped from N13,000 per 50kg to N5,500. Today, but for a few drawbacks, we are confidently approaching self-sufficiency in rice production: that is from importing $5 million of rice daily.
“Official imports are down to 2%. We have opened up opportunities for greater entrepreneurial activity in the sector and there is far greater investment in value adding services in the value chain. In the last three years, more young entrepreneurs have taken to agriculture, and taken advantage of the massive market for food and agricultural commodities, and are doing well at it. Three examples will buttress the point. Farmcrowdy is a digital agriculture portal that crowd-sources funding for farms across Nigeria.
“Founded in 2016 by Onyeka Akumah and three other young Nigerians, it works like a mutual fund; pooling together money from multiple investors to establish farms and hire smallholder farmers to cultivate them, and then paying the investors dividends from the harvests from these farms. In December 2017, it raised US$1m in funding.”
Continuing, he said, “the Next Level is extending agricultural credit more extensively, especially to farmers in the South. Construction of more dams to strengthen irrigation practices. Seven of such projects were completed in 2018 – Kashimbila Dam in Taraba State; Ogwashi-Uku Dam, Delta State; Shagari Irrigation Project, Sokoto State.
“Galdam Dam, Kaduna state and Ekeremor Water Supply Project in Edo State. Others are Mangu Water Supply Project, Plateau State; and Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi Water Supply Project, Benue State. 13 more dams are to be completed by or before 2020.
“The work with sub-national governments to provide access roads to farms for easy conveyance of products and inputs between markets and the farm will continue.”
While stressing that the entire value chain will be driven by the private sector developed from production through industrial processing to logistics/handling and marketing through technological transfer, Prof. Osinbajo also stated that, “a critical component of our agricultural programme is described as the Green imperative,” which idea is to move from the prevailing basic form of agriculture to a more mechanized system.
Speaking further, he said: “The Nigerian government, in partnership with Brazil, will facilitate the financing of the provision of machinery, equipment, input and services. At the top of the mechanization chain are six assembly plants to be activated and spread across the six geopolitical zones.
“The assembly plants will undertake the assembly of tractors and processing equipment, as well as light manufacturing of parts which will be sent out to the Service Centres closer to the farmers across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
“The first assembly plant, among a total of six to operate, to assemble tractors and implements, will be located in Bauchi state in an already existing facility owned by a private operator. It is projected that almost 5,000 tractors will be assembled in Nigeria every year.”