By Joshua Olomu
Abuja,Sept.30, 2020 (NAN) Economic experts and other key players in the agriculture value chain have called for a revamping of Nigeria’s Agriculture Sector to maximise business opportunities offered by the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the stakeholders made the call on Wednesday at a virtual strategy workshop on Agriculture and Agribusiness organised by the National Action Committee on the AfCFTA agreement in Abuja.
Business leaders from both the public and private sectors, executives of industry associations, civil society groups, representatives of international development organisations and top government functionaries were among stakeholders that spoke at the workshop.
According to the stakeholders, part of the general objectives of the agreement is to encourage industrial development through diversification and regional value chain development, agricultural development and food security.
They noted that the AfCFTA agreement also encouraged member states to specialise in the production of certain goods where they have a comparative advantage.
They therefore urged that since Nigeria has vast agriculture potential, it was expedient to completely overhaul the sector to enhance the quality and quantity of local production, create more jobs and increase agricultural exports.
Mr Francis Anatogu, the Secretary, the National Action Committee on AfCFTA, told NAN on the sidelines that the workshop was for stakeholders to brainstorm on how Nigeria could properly utilise business doors being offered by AfCFTA.
“We are looking at the products and the value chain from input to farming, primary processing, secondary processing and trading, and the ones that give us the comparative advantage as a nation.
“The whole objective of this is to come up with a roadmap and this roadmap will identify those quick wins, the short-term steps and the long term measures,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and Chairman AfCFTA National Action Committee, said Nigeria had a lot to gain from intra-Africa trading.
He said that Nigeria economy had inherent capacity to create jobs for her teeming and youthful population, irrespective of skill level with agriculture having the most opportunities.
The minister said: “Our focus today is Agriculture and Agribusiness which contributed 22 per cent to Nigeria’s GDP and 34.7per cent of employment in 2019; agriculture is therefore a priority sector for Nigeria.
“It is therefore not by chance that we are starting our sectoral strategy workshop for AfCFTA with agriculture.
“We have carefully selected our presenters from every segment of the agriculture value chain to provide expert view son how Nigeria can leverage agriculture to win with AfCFTA.”
Dr Kwesi Atta-Krah, the Director, the Country and Regional Engagement, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) said: “Agriculture is not culture,but a business, so we need to properly utilise the entire value chain in agriculture.
“Nigeria needs to strengthen its research institutions to they can help the country in providing appropriate packages of practices, based on recent research results and farmers’ needs, and disseminate them.
“AfCFTA is a great opportunity, and there is need to consider policies and programmes that keep trade doors open in Africa were food importation is much.”
Alhaji Muhammad Nanono, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development , said that although agriculture was the highest employer of labour in Nigeria, about 70 per cent of its activities was operated at small scale level.
The minister, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary for the ministry, Dr Mu’azu Abdulkadir said that there was need to embrace and promote mechanised farming across the country.
Dr Vincent Isegbe, the Director-General, Nigeria Agricultural Quarantine Service said that there was need for elimination of tariffs and ensure eased clearance of agricultural products to realise the objectives of AfCFTA.
Isegbe, who was represented by Mr Idachaba Ebenezer, the Director, Laboratory Management Service in the Nigerian Quarantine Service, also identified non-tariff barriers such as arbitrarily imposed phyto sanitary rules, as factors that should be addressed for trade under AfCFTA
Prof. Peter Aikpokpodion, the Department of Genetics and Biotechnology, University of Calabar said: “We should properly harness our resources to upscale the volume of our Agricultural output.”
Aikpokpodion therefore recommended aggressive focus on modernisation and industrailisation in key value chains with comparative advantage, enhanced market access and focused financing for commodity value chains as practical step towards repositioning the agriculture sector.
He also recommended tax holidays for local industries, zero level tariffs on imported and agricultural processing machines, expansion of domestic production and reduction of food and raw material import.
NAN reports that following the signing of the agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade in July 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari, directed the constitution of a National Action Committee (NAC).
The mandate of the NAC is to coordinate relevant MDA’s and stakeholder groups to implement the trade readiness interventions detailed in the AfCFTA Impact and Readiness Assessment Report including projects, policies and programmes.