Mr African farmer Mogaji, the immediate past Chairman, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Agricultural and Allied Group, has urged the Federal Government to draw up a clear strategy to address the challenges confronting the agricultural sector.
Mogaji made the call in a chat with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos, while reacting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence day broadcast on Friday.
He said the Federal Government should give account of the present situation of the sector and also proffer possible suggestions on how to tackle it.
“We are not having the productivity, we are not having the skill ; we should be given a good strategy on how to address high inflation rate, low productivity and many more.
“What the government should be telling us is where we are and where we are going.
“The strategy is what the government should be giving us. This is what I find fault with. There is still no clear strategy that the private sector can take and run with,” he said.
The agriculture expert said there were a lot of things the government could do to make the sector better, noting that largely the nation’s food reserves and silos were empty.
According to Mogaji, it is never too late to turn off the wrong road, as the president’s speech showed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture was not on top of its game because food reserve enables food security.
“Food reserve ensures that when there is no rain, or when there is too much rain, it is the reserves to fall back on.
“From the president’s speech, if they had not been doing that before, it means the ministry was not going in the right direction in spite of climate change. Now that he has given the order, at least we know we are going in the right direction,” he said.
Speaking on the President’s directive to security agencies to go after middlemen for hoarding food commodities, Mogaji said the government should partner, instead of clamping down on their businesses.
“I don’t think the President is right to go after the middlemen. The middlemen are doing business, if we are producing enough, there is nothing for the middlemen to hoard.
“What it means is that instead of going after the middlemen, which has always being a challenge, they should work with them because the middlemen are the ones actually funding farmers, not the ministry.
”They are the ones that fund the system, so, if they fund the farmers, they have the right and agreement that we will buy back from you.
He urged the Federal Government to learn from the middlemen who have the working structure.
“When the security men go after them, will they be asking them if they store the food items illegally, or that they bought the food?
“They rented warehouses, they built warehouses, they took bank loans and bought the food. On what legal ground will the government go after them?
“If they did not steal the grain, why go after them as if they stole the food? It is best for them to hoard in Nigeria than people from the West African coming and mop it.
“Countries like Niger and Benin are just small countries that climate change has affected and they buy their grains from Nigeria,” Mogaji said.
Speaking on the agriculture sector’s contributions to the GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021, he said the sector could do better.
“The Agric sector can generate more, if well harnessed. In the past five years, 2020/2021 recorded the highest food inflation, and yet an extra N1trilliin was invested in the sector.
“If you invest an extra N1trilliin and we are still getting the same result we are getting eight years ago, then there is a problem,” he said.
Dr Femi Oke, Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), commended the President for taking cognisance of the agriculture sector and its contributions to the nation’s GDP.
Oke, in his reactions, however, said the activities of middlemen was not solely responsible for the hike in prices of food commodities, identifying the lack of implementation and monitoring by relevant agencies as contributing factors.
Similarly, he said, the lack of storage system, lack of food banks, lack of grain reserves were also to blame.
“Middlemen are contributing, but not as much as the level that the president was referring to.
”They are not fully responsible for the hike in prices of food commodities or hoarding, so going after them is like going after the wrong people.
“The nonchalant attitude of various government agencies saddled with the responsibility to regulate activities within the sector, are responsible for hoarding and hike in prices.
“Also, insecurity plays a major role because many farmers cannot access their farms for fear of kidnapping.
“Very many cannot go to our farms to harvest and it has contributed to hike in food commodities,” he said. (NAN)