ADVERTORIAL: Agriculture as a means to economic diversification

CBN

 

“Nigeria’s early development was financed with agricultural wealth, including development of the oil sector. Agriculture has left a far better legacy of infrastructural facilities than the current oil-based economy.”  – Dr Abbati Bako, International Political Resource Centre

The reality of the hard-hitting consequences of Nigeria’s overdependence on oil – which today accounts for 90% of our foreign exchange earnings and 80% of total revenue – is something no Nigerian can claim being ignorant of.  Our four decades long obsession with oil, at the detriment of our huge non-oil resources, has finally proven to all and sundry across Nigeria that such overdependence on oil is not only unsustainable but also disastrous.

Beginning from 2015, when Nigeria plunged into its worst recession in almost three decades, and it’s devastating consequences crippled virtually all sectors of our economy, citizens and policymakers across the country have been urging for a ‘rethink’ in terms of our revenue generation strategies and overall economic policies as a nation.

It’s a pity and unfortunate that a country like ours can afford to for this long subject its economy to oil-dependency despite the turbulence and instability associated with the global oil market – at the expense of its vast agricultural and solid minerals potentials. No country in the world has ever achieved sustainable economic development by being a crude oil dependent mono-economy, and Nigeria cannot be an exception, thus, diversification is a MUST and not an option.

Regrettably, despite enjoying political stability and steady growth in GDP between 1999 and 2014 – which was not unrelated to steady increases in oil prices at the global market – the billons of petrodollars accrued to Nigeria were not utilized in diversifying the economy, instead successive PDP governments only succeeded in squandering our national wealth.

Lack of foresight, poor and inconsistent economic policies and the evil of corruption were responsible for our failure to save our surpluses for the ‘rainy day.’ At a time when countries like Saudi Arabia (which produces about 13% of global oil supply) are working assiduously to diversify their economy away from oil, Nigeria (which produces only less than 3%) has no reason whatsoever to remain a crude oil-dependent mono-economy.

It is even disheartening looking at the fact the agricultural sector, which prior to discovery of oil – and its resultant oil curse – was contributing up to 70% of our GDP, is today contributing barely 30% of our GDP. If we are really serious about changing our economic fortunes for better as a nation, our best alternative is the agric sector, which if adequately funded has the potential to lead us to not only food sufficiency but also economic prosperity.

By strengthening agricultural production through favourable policies including provision of high yielding seeds, making access to agric loans easier for farmers, subsidizing the cost of inputs and machines and building farmers capacity on exporting and marketing their commodities, Nigeria will witness the emergence of hundreds of thousands of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across the agribusiness value chains.

Looking at the size of the agricultural value chains – production, inputs and mechanization, processing, marketing and finance, research and development – one can clearly see the huge opportunities it could provide in terms of job and wealth creation as well as sustainable economic growth. Doubtlessly, no other sector of our economy presents so enormous opportunities for economic diversification as does agriculture.

A perfect example of agric sector‘s viability as an alternative to oil can be seen in the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, whose successful implementation has put Nigeria on the path to  self-sufficiency in rice production and created thousands of jobs and enormous wealth for the farmers in the process.

We, therefore, call on Federal Government to ensure that the huge successes recorded by the programme in rice production is replicated across other commodities which will not only put us on the path to food-sufficiency and export earnings as nation but also lead to our becoming a truly Agric-based diversified economy.

Compiled by Moving Image Limited

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