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As Nigeria makes efforts to ensure that agriculture plays a key role in its quest for revenue diversification, stakeholders in the sector have charged the Federal Government to bridge the infrastructural gaps to aid agribusiness development in the country and ensure food security.
Indubitably, some of the greatest problems confronting rural farmers and communities in Nigeria are the absence of critical infrastructure such as motorable roads, storage facilities and irrigation facilities amongst others.
Farmers continue to suffer low levels of agricultural productivity due to infrastructural deficit across the country, which reduces their profit and impact on their capacity to increase productivity.
The provision of critical infrastructure is a pre-requisite for enabling Nigeria stimulate economic growth and to reach the targets for economic diversification and food security.
Obiora Madu, former chairman, export group, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said that Nigeria does not have an effective agricultural infrastructures, stating that the country’s export drive can only be successful with adequate infrastructural facilities such as storage, good road networks amongst others. He added that the lack of these facilities has made cost of food production higher.
“The costs of logistics are also very high. It is cheaper to transport a commodity to Europe than to transport same commodity within the country,” Madu said.
After few days of heavy rainfalls most farming areas and markets become totally impassable and this has continued to impact negatively on the prices of food items across the country.
Samson Akwah, organising secretary-yam section, Mile 12 Market, in Lagos State said that the cost of transporting yam tubers using a Mercedes Benz truck (911) from the Middle Belt region to Lagos has increased from N350, 000 to N700, 000 due to the bad state of roads.
Although Nigeria ranks top in the production of some crops, the infrastructures needed to store the excesses are lacking.
“Post-harvest losses in Nigeria are huge due to inadequate storage facilities in the country,” said Mawuli Coffie, team leader, West Africa Food Markets Programme, adding that the country’s post-harvest losses are enough to feed the West Africa region.
According to Abiodun Olorundenro, manager, Aqua Shoots, the problem with Nigeria’s agriculture is infrastructure. He believes that that the country is growing enough food to feed its people, but notes that most of what is grown often rots in the field because it is difficult to move them easily from the farms and the facilities to store them are lacking.
“We can only feed ourselves when the infrastructures needed to boost productivity across the value chain are there. We can even move our foods from the farm to the market easily,” Olorundenro said.
He stated that developing agriculture is very critical in the country’s efforts to diversify the economy, which he said can only be achieved when heavy investments are made in infrastructures.
Investments in the country’s primary agricultural infrastructures will help integrate poorer sections of the population into a sustainable process of economic growth and development, experts say.
In turn, this will reduce poverty by providing jobs directly and indirectly that will serve as a stimulus to the economy and the agricultural sector specifically.
Nigeria’s population is fast rising and it’s growing at an annual rate of 3.1 percent, therefore the need to bridge infrastructural gaps is necessary for food security and economic growth.
Recently, the non-oil export has come under serious threat owing to the worsening state of the Apapa and Tin Can roads that lead to the nation’s Lagos sea ports.
As a result, agro commodities worth billions of naira are being trapped at the port as clearing processes are becoming difficult owing to the faulty Customs scanners.
Experts stressed that transaction cycles for export are taking longer than necessary and foreign buyers are beginning to question the integrity of contracts they enter into with Nigerians.
As a result, buyers are now shunning Nigeria’s cashew nuts at the international market as contractual agreements are being delayed.
The situation has resulted in a 60 percent drop in price from an average of N500,000 per ton in 2018 season to N 200,000 per metric ton in 2019 cashew season, its lowest since 2016.
“The situation has been bad for cashew exporters as buyers are refusing to renew contract agreements because of the port congestion and delay in clearing for export,” Zacheaus Egbewusi, chief executive officer, Agri-Commodities Inspection Limited, said in a telephone response to questions.
“It takes an average of 30 days for cashew to be cleared and shipped out of the ports currently.
“This has crashed the price of cashew to as low as N200, 000 per metric ton from N500,000 per ton of 2018 prices. This is the lowest we have sold since 2016,” Egbewusi said.