By Agbaji Chinedu
The role of Agricultural business is unquestionable in carrying out the strategic approach in eradicating poverty and hunger ,industrialization as well, with expected impact on investment, job creation and sustainable opportunities for a shared prosperity. Agricultural business is, and remain undoubtedly, the engine of growth and economic diversification in Nigeria.
You cannot talk of Economic diversification in Nigeria without Agricultural business coming to mind. Diversifying into Agriculture or rather making Agriculture another strong source of income in Nigerian will be an all-encompassing approach of both the Federal/State/ Local government, Public and Private sector. The first step of all encompassing approach is to see Agriculture as a business, then let there be an establishment of Nigerian Agribusiness Development Agency that will manage all business of Agriculture in Nigeria. The vision of the Nigerian Agribusiness Development Agency (NADA) if established, is to lead and manage the delivery of appropriate services to enable previously disadvantaged farmers both commercial and substantial farmers to achieve sustainable success in the agribusiness subsector of the economy through partnerships and knowledge. There cannot be a meaningful development in Agricultural business without knowledge and the right application of the knowledge to produce the needed result which is called innovation, Innovations are managed by a body, Agribusiness innovations and opportunities can be managed by Nigerian Agribusiness Development Agency.
However, the new context of globalization and market liberalization offers new opportunities, but also new challenges to farmers. It requires more competitiveness and efficiency. It requires small-scale producers to ensure quality, consistency and standards of security if they wish to benefit from new markets. The comparative advantages derived from abundant natural resources need to be complemented with advantages arising from a stronger entrepreneurial role and links with the stages of processing. New approaches to farming should be promoted, including all kinds of linkages in the chains from production to consumption. It is only Nigerian Agribusiness Development Agency that can do this and answer the following questions:-
- How much can we strengthen linkages between farmers, agribusiness firms, Government agencies and private sector for national economic development through Agribusiness?
- How much entrepreneurial negotiation capacity can we build among farmers and agribusiness firms and agents, and what abilities and training are required for farmers and agro-allied business organization to be efficient and effective in sustainable Agro based economic development in Nigeria?
- What are the roles of government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private agents in building alliances with economic diversification through Agribusiness in mind?
- Does the rural and agro-industrial sector have development policies that help to consolidate these linkages both national and international?
- Have these linkages had a positive impact on the living standards of small producers before now and can the agency improve it?
The opportunities in Agriculture are not just in owning a farm but in the following business enterprises that buy from or sell to farmers. The transaction may involve either a product, a commodity or a service and encompasses items such as (a) productive resources e.g. feed, seed, fertilizers equipment, energy, machinery etc. (b) agricultural commodities e.g. food and fiber etc. (c) facilitative services e.g. credit, insurance, Agro produce brokering, marketing, consultancy, storage, processing, transportation, packing, distribution etc.
As the world grapples with the corona virus, the economic impact is mounting – The International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva issued a statement sometime in march, in which she outlined the outlook for global growth:
“For 2020 it is negative – a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse.”
But she added: “We expect recovery in 2021. To get there, it is paramount to prioritize containment and strengthen health systems – everywhere.”
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development warned on 23 March that the shock from the virus is already bigger than the 2007-2009 global financial crisis. I believe that Agriculture and ancillary Agro-businesses are the magic wands that can save Nigeria. Exploring opportunities in primary agriculture and agro-food sector for increased employment and export earnings is the way out.
For Economic growth, sustainability and food security, experts believe that Nigerians and the government needs to consider farming as serious business rather than an alternative to crude oil, if food security and economic diversification will be achieved.
The point is, Agriculture and the many offshoots are catalyst for job creation and opportunity to provide food rather than the serial importations of what Nigerians can produce and the associated waste of hard-earned foreign exchange.
It is on record that Nigeria has over 84 million hectares of arable land, out of which only 40% is cultivated. Estimated at over 180 million people, it is also emerging as Africa’s largest agricultural market.
Supported by nature, the country’s crops that could earn huge foreign exchange include beans, yams, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, cocoa beans, groundnuts, gum arabic, kolanut, maize , banana, melon, millet, palm kernels, palm oil, plantains, rice, rubber, sorghum, soyabeans and yams. These have potentials of commercial quantities. The need to have an agency with the responsibility to develop the strategy, coordinate, and implement agribusiness Investments and opportunities through public, private and development partnerships is NOW. The agency will also enhance the optimization of agro-food value chain business within the Nation through an agricultural network that strengthens productivity, value chain growth and the processing and packaging of agro-based production for economic growth and diversification.
Considering the following, my case for the establishment of Nigerian Agribusiness Development Agency (NADA) is unswayable. Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East, both in terms of size and population. A quarter of Iran’s population lives in rural areas. And 21.2% of the total working population of the country are employed in the agricultural sector because an agency is managing her business of agriculture. Despite having oil revenues, agriculture plays an important role in the economy of Iran. AMERICANS enjoy a high standard of living because of the abundance of inexpensive agricultural products. Most Americans do not have to worry about having enough food to eat or clothes to wear because of an agribusiness system that is the best in the world. In Rwanda, the bank attributed 45 per cent of the country’s rapid poverty reduction to growth of the agriculture sector and associated industries and services.
Agbaji Chinedu writes from Kaduna.Can be reached— email:[email protected], 08035004617