By Franca Ofili
The President, National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANTS), Mr. Ken Ukaoha says the N137.9 billion budgeted for agricultural sector in 2019 is too low to achieve the ambitious agricultural policy targets.
Ukaoha made this known in Abuja on Monday during validation analysis of the 2019 proposed budget for the agriculture sector and its contribution to food security.
The Federal Government policy is to provide a disciplined approach to building an agribusiness ecosystem that will solve lack of lending to farmers by the financial system and the dramatic levels of food imports from across the world.
He observed that there was no allocation in the budget for inputs for farmers, adding that the budget supports for small holder agriculture was opaque.
“More worrisome is that the late appropriation caused by the general election and inability of the parliament to reconvene will result in late release of the budget.
“It will also affect implementation coupled with the fact that budget performance over the years has been poor,’’ he said.
Ukaoha said that it was unfortunate that year after year, in spite of the policies and promises, Nigeria’s budgets for agriculture had not yielded the required results of hand holding farmers.
Ukaoha said that for the past nine years or more, the allocation to the agricultural sector had not exceeded two per cent of the national budget.
According to him, some milestones have been achieved on the rice sub-sector but unfortunately, the country is still a major importer of food.
“According to Minister of Agriculture, Mr Audu Ogbe, Nigeria spends about 22 billion annually on food importation.
“Regarding job creation, many youths are still averse to the idea of farming as an occupation and there has been a steady increase in the rate of unemployment which currently stands as 23.1 per cent and still increasing.
“The agriculture sector would have comfortably bridged the gap, if well funded,’’ he said.
Ukaoha said that increased budgetary allocations would further strengthen adoption and use of improved varieties and good agricultural practices.
He said that increased budgetary allocations would provide adequate information and improved extension services leading to increased productivity per hectare.
NANTS president also complained about the amount allocated for climate change, saying it was not too low (NAN).