Renewed Focus on Agriculture in 2017 as SON Joins Sustainable Cocoa Beans Promotion

For over four decades, the Nigerian economy mostly depended on proceeds from the sale of crude oil. This was at the expense of other sectors such as solid minerals and agriculture that hitherto, contributed significantly to the economy of Nigeria.

Even though there had been history of clamours for diversification of the economy, it was only during the recent recession that struck the nation that stakeholders focused on reviving the non-oil sector which helped in a large way in the fair recovery that re-bounced the economy. Now, as the curtain of 2017 falls, there should be a renewed passion and interest to invest more and heavily in Agriculture.

It has been reported that Nigeria has 75 per cent of its land suitable for agriculture, but only 40% is cultivated. That indicates there is much room for the county to focus on. This addresses the food security and agriculture component of their plan along with the focus on employment for all.

However, to move forward, the country must increase the low productivity of current agricultural companies, engage competition within the agricultural sector, develop domestic policies and increase funding.

In terms of the 20-20-20 plan for agriculture, growth promotion is the first goal. There are also goals in the areas of livelihoods improvement, sustainable development and policy and institutional reforms. This involves conducting agricultural surveys, and establishing smallholder fattening schemes for livestock. It also includes the rehabilitation of irrigation infrastructures and expansion of those structures as well. There is also a call for a capacity community farm center; there should also be a plan for increasing the effectiveness of fish hatcheries by establishing parent stock programmes and vaccination programmes for livestock.

There should be a revision of the guaranteed minimum price system for crops and livestock; as well there will also be government training for new agricultural workers.

According to Omorogbe Omorogiuwa of the Nigerian American University, one component in determining how to use agriculture to improve economics in Nigeria is to evaluate the historical efforts in terms of agriculture that Nigeria has engaged in since its independence.

“This will ensure that the country does not repeat past mistakes. In addition, this evidence will demonstrate whether or not it is feasible for agriculture to be a primary factor in Nigerian economic development. Along with historical factors, there must be an evaluation of both internal and external factors that could impact the Nigerian agriculture market. In addition, it is important to identify the strategies needed to enhance economic growth through the use of agriculture.

Nigeria is fortunate to have an abundance of fertile soil along with a climate suitable for agriculture. There is also a supply of human resources that could benefit from having the agricultural sector to work in. As stated above, Nigeria can join the league of economically developed nations by focusing on the improvement of its agricultural sector.”

He added that a recent group study examined the effect of other channels of growth on the decrease in poverty and the overall growth rate in six low-income countries of Africa, noting that the findings of that research can be applicable to Nigeria as well.

“According to the study, industrial growth is less effective in reducing poverty than agricultural growth because a major percentage of the population (about 70%) live in rural areas.

“The agricultural sector is favourable as it allows greater employment opportunities for the poor. Even though the industrial sector is important for boosting the economy, it failed to create sufficient employment opportunities for the poor and unskilled workers.”
In 2018, investors and governments should focus on developing the following areas:

Nigeria should see a bumper cocoa harvest in the coming season as late rains have helped boost pod production.

President of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) Sayina Riman, expects output for the new season to hit between 300,000 tonnes and 320,000 tonnes, up sharply from the season just ended which was blighted by poor weather.

The cocoa season in Nigeria, the world’s fourth biggest producer, runs from October to September, with an October-to-February main crop and a smaller light or mid-crop that begins in April or May and runs through September.

The 2016/17 season started at a slow pace after drought cut the mid-crop harvest by 40 per cent. Output for that season was estimated to reach 260,000 tonnes, Riman said, lower than a revised forecast of 280,000 tonnes and down from 340,000 tonnes forecast at the start of the season.

“We have late rains which has affected production. We are hoping that from the first week of October, we should be talking of increased yield,”.

The International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), however, gives much lower estimates of Nigerian cocoa output. It forecast last season’s production at 220,000 tonnes.

Riman did not give a reason for the discrepancy. Nigerian government production figures are also significantly higher than ICCO estimates.

“We are looking at new plantations … rehabilitation of old farms, the level of youth coming into farming and the recovery rate of abandoned farms,” he said.

World cocoa prices have declined by a third in the last year amid a global supply glut after record production from top growers Ivory Coast and Ghana. ICCO predicts a global surplus of 371,000 tonnes for 2016/17.

Cocoa trees need a delicate balance of rainy and dry weather. Too little rain and they wither; too much and they become susceptible to insects or fungal black pod disease. Beans can also go mouldy if small farmers are unable to dry them outside.

Meanwhile, Nigeria has thrown its weight behind the global efforts to turn cocoa beans farming into an economically-viable venture.

To this end, the country has joined the sustainable and traceable cocoa farming team. It participated with other cocoa producing nations at the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) Technical Committee meetings held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Present at the meeting on “Sustainable and Traceable Cocoa” were Chairman, National Mirror Committee on Cocoa, Mr. Shamsideen Olusegun Aroyeun from the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN); Margaret Eshiett; Abdulkadir Jelani Abubakar, and Benjamin Grace all of the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON); and Jayeloa Olayinka of CRIN.

According to Eshiett, who led the Nigerian delegation to the meeting, ISO members have been instrumental in the development of the current draft ISO 34101 series of standards in sustainable and traceable cocoa beans.

She stated that the draft ISO 34101 series of standards was aimed at specifying requirements for a management system for the farming of cocoa beans, making production more sustainable.

The SON Lead Delegate added that the draft standard features a dynamic farm development plan, using a stepwise approach to improve the economic, social and environmental impact in the coca value chain.
The series, according to her, will help support the professionalism of cocoa farming around the world and support cocoa farmers to produce sustainably.

She further stated that when work is completed on the standards, the use of the ISO 13401 series of standards will have valuable impact on the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and their families. She said it will help them transform their farms into economically viable businesses.

Poultry Farming:
According to Gboyega Adewole, the Coordinator of Natnudo broiler project, opportunities in the broiler market are substantial and all we need to do is to take a closer look at the value chain. “Take for example, the feed mills. If we are allowed to produce the 1.5 million tonnes of chickens consumed locally, the feed mills will have to supply about N700bn worth of feed, the hatchery N145billion worth of day old chicks (DOCs) and the animal pharmaceutical industry will have to deliver drugs and vaccines worth about N45 – N55 billion-naira.

“Those numbers that I have given you put together is about N900 billion. And that is just on the input side of the business but 70% of that money is not allowed to be made in our system because of the imported chickens blocking the flow. Ideally, Nigeria has enough poultry farmers who are ready to breed broilers because they have the space and the farm but because of this constraint, nobody is willing to fully exploit that market.

He added that from available statistics, Nigeria consumes about 1.5 million tonnes of chicken annually but Nigeria produces only 30% of that. It is not that we do not have the capacity to produce 100% of what we consume, it is just that 70% of the chickens that we consume are imported (smuggled). Some people call them ‘cadaver’ chickens because of the long and poor storage process that they must go through before they get into the country.

“This is basically one of the biggest challenges confronting the broiler market in Nigeria. So, from an economic perspective, it’s affecting all the stakeholders in the value chain, namely: farmers, farm workers, transporters, input suppliers (feed, DOC,), laboratories, extension officers, veterinary doctors, financial service providers, processing plants etc. 1.5 million metric tonnes of chicken is 1.5 billion kilograms of chicken. The average breast chicken is 1.4 kg so that gives us 1, 071,428,000. That is the amount of chicken that we consume every year.

There are several areas of farming that can boost the economy if deliberate and conscious efforts are made to invest and revive them in the new year.

Amid low oil prices and the recession, the federal, state governments and private sector investors in 2017 turned to agriculture, Jonathan Eze of This Day Newspaper writes.