Nigeria need to use its comparative advantage on commodities like cotton to earn $10 bln annually

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Ivorian farmers carry cotton balls, on December 5, 2015 in the village of Kanawolo near the northern city of Korhogo. Ivory Coast cotton output rose 11 percent to a record 450,000 tonnes in the 2014/2015 tonnes compared with the previous season on the back of favourable weather and more farmers, an executive of the cotton ginners association said on May 27, 2015. / AFP PHOTO / Issouf SANOGO

NIGERIA is losing $10 billion annually for neglecting the agricultural sector to depend on oil as the mainstay of its economy, the World Bank has said.

The bank’s Senior Agric Economist, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, dropped the hint on Thursday in his key note address at Sterling Bank’s agriculture summit in Abuja.

Dr. Oredipe lamented that, had Nigeria held on to its market share in palm oil, cocoa, groundnut and cotton where it had comparative advantage decades ago, it would be earning at least $10 billion per year from these commodities.

At the agric summit, themed: “Agriculture- your piece of $1 trillion economy”, it was revealed that Sterling Bank Plc’s commitment to agriculture financing in the past seven years now stands at N55 billion.

For abandoning agriculture, the World Bank official noted that Nigeria now ranks as one of the largest food importers in the world.

He said: “In 2016 alone, Nigeria spent $965 million on the importation of wheat, $39.7 million to import rice and $100.2 million on sugar imports. The decision to spend $655 million on fish importation seems financially indiscreet, given all the marine resources, rivers, lakes, and creeks in Nigeria.

“None of the above transactions is fiscally, economically, or politically sustainable. Nigeria is tragically living on borrowed time, a typical case of robbing Paul to pay Peter.

He went on to state that “each time we spend money to import rice, Nigerian local rice farmers are negatively affected in terms of morale, sales, and realisable income.”

The country’s failure to make full use of her potential in agriculture, he said, “is responsible for poor quality life of her majority of populace.”

The World Bank agricultural expert said: “Nigeria has not been able to engender meaningful development in spite of her huge resources’ endowment.

“This problem has greatly affected her quest for improved quality of life for Nigerians. Nigeria has huge agricultural potential evidenced by an arable land potential of 98 million ha, out of which 74 million ha is cultivatable. Sadly, till to-date, Nigeria’s agricultural potential remains untapped. Only 34 million ha (being 48 per cent) is currently being cultivated for agricultural uses.

“According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the value of agriculture in Nigeria at constant 2010 dollars was 110 billion dollars (World Bank, 2016). This is projected to grow to 256 billion dollars by 2030. The growth is expected to come from yield expansion (44 per cent), area expansion (33 per cent) and diversification into high value crops (23 per cent).
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“In spite of this huge agricultural potential, Nigeria which used to be the major player in agriculture in the world has lost its place in the global community. In the 1960s we had glory.

“That glory was visible and significant for the global community to recognise and applaud. Nigeria accounted for 42 per cent of the world’s exports of shelled groundnuts. Our total export volume was 502, 000 MT. This declined to 356 MT by 2016 (FAOSTSAT, 2016).”

Oredipe, however, called for the overhauling of policies by articulating a clear vision to “achieve a hunger-free Nigeria, through an agricultural sector that drives income growth, accelerates achievement of food and nutritional security, generates employment and transforms Nigeria into a leading player in global food markets”.

“Nigeria’s vision”, he suggested, “should be to revive the rural economy by transforming Nigeria into an agriculturally industrialized economy, create wealth, jobs, and markets for farmers. We must adopt an ambitious agricultural promotion strategy, one that is focused on a combination of transformational policy reforms and private capital investments with a promise to expand the benefits to millions of Nigerians.”

Opening the summit, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who pledged restated government’s commitment to developing agriculture, a cardinal sector of economic diversification programme of the government.

He was represented by the Minister of State for Agriculture, Mustapha Baba Shehuri,

He said: “Our agenda is to guarantee the vibrancy of the sector; agriculture must be seen as a business and haven for investment. We are integrating food production, storage, food processing and industrial manufacturing to establish the linkages necessary in the agricultural commodity value chain.”

The bank’s Managing Director, Abubakar Suleiman, told the audience that Sterling Bank has committed over N55 billion financial support to agricultural sector in the last seven years.

He also said the bank has set up farmer’s radio, to assist farmers’ access to information. The radio station he said is currently broadcasting in 13 stations.

The bank’s Chairman, Asue Igholalo, stressed that the revitalisation of the agriculture sector is a key project to ensure national development adding the sector has not attracted the funding required for its maximum productivity.

Igholalo further lamented the huge loss recorded in the sector due to unfixed infrastructure and finance deficit adding that efforts geared towards improving the sector should be promoted to ensure production of food for the people and for export.

He said: “Sterling bank as a show of its commitment to the agricultural sector offers 10 percent loan to boost the activities in the sector.”

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