Experts seek large firms inclusion in agriculture space


By Rukayat Moisemhe
Lagos, April 29, 2021 Experts on Thursday called for the inclusion of large firms to the nation’s current smallholder farming system to drive Nigeria’s agricultural sector to its maximum capacity.

The experts made the call at the Institute of Directors (IoD) webinar with the theme: “Outlook of the 2021 Planting Season: Incentives and Opportunities.”

Dr Debo Akande, Executive Adviser on Agriculture to the Governor of Oyo, noted that smallholder farming was unable to sustain the kind of dynamism agriculture currently required.

Akande, also, a senior agricbusiness specialist, said major firms would be able to provide the technology, capital and the know-how to mitigate the challenges of climate change.

Addressing the clashes between herdsmen and farmers, the agricbusiness specialist proposed a rural development planning on security for farming.

“We must also move to more structured, cohesive agricultural practices, by and large, more modern approach in agricultural practices.

“The big firms and corporations still have the capacity to infuse additional elements that will improve the nation’s agricultural outputs and its contribution to Gross Domestic Product,” he said.

Mr Ayodeji Balogun, the Chief Executive Officer, Afex Commodity Exchange Ltd., said bigger firms had better cash flows, could take bigger insurance and premium, and invest in hybrid seeds that could withstand climate change situations.

Balogun noted that agri-insurance had evolved over the last four years with a record of about six hundred thousand hectares of farmlands insured.

He said that insurance pricing was still high, given the current nature of the agricultural terrain and financial capacity of the nation.

Balogun called for better strategies to ensure that critical farm inputs got to the farmers on time, to take full advantage of the planting season in spite of the global climate change situation.

He revealed that a loss of over a million metric tonnes of grains valued at about 200 million dollars was recorded last year because the rains did not stop as at when projected.

Balogun called for the creation of more specialised farming clusters to enable the ease of access to viable seeds that can withstand draughts.

“Larger farming enterprise means you can invest more and harvest even more.

“We ask that fertilisers be made available across the country as farmers are currently paying three times what they paid same time last year and we have less than three weeks to get these fertilisers to farmers to record good time planting season,” he said.

Prof. Lateef Sanni, Project Manager, Building Economically Sustainable Seed Systems in Africa, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, urged government to tackle insecurity and provide access to funding facilities and better infrastructure.

According to him, the North was well suitable for cattle rearing and production and should be strengthened to do so to address the nation’s current security challenges of clashes between herdsmen and farmers.

Earlier in his welcome address, Chief Chris Okunowo, President, IoD, noted that agriculture remained the base of the Nigerian economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians.

Okunowo said the sector was faced with many challenges, inclusive of outdated land tenure system that constrains access to land, very low level of irrigation development and limited adoption of research findings and technologies, amongst others.

According to him, experience show that the main factors undermining production include; reliance on rain-fed agriculture, smallholder land holding and low productivity due to poor planting material.

Others, he said were, low fertiliser application, and a weak agricultural extension system, amongst others.

“This situation comes with several negative consequences, including arbitrary increase in prices of agricultural products and lack of food.

“It is as a result of the above scenario that we, as an institute, have considered it necessary to host this event, to enable directors and other stakeholders have an understanding of the issues, and articulate necessary steps on the way forward.

“Therefore, to proactively prepare for the coming planting season, this webinar is aimed at understanding the strategies to navigate the short planting season envisaged this year.

“We must also prepare for the challenges occasioned by the short rainy season and get clear direction on how to navigate these challenges, get expert advice on seed selection and seed procurement.

“We also plan to gain insights on government interventions and opportunities for farmers in the planting year, plan the planting season appropriately and learn more about effective distribution of produce.

“It is expected that the Institute will work with teams of relevant stakeholders in collaboration with the government to address the issues that will come out of this event,” he said.