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FG to revamp agriculture with N745.2bn — Investigation

By on April 24, 2011

The Federal Government is planning to invest N745.2bn between 2011 and 2013 as part of renewed efforts to revamp the agricultural sector and enhance food security.

This is contained in a document on the Federal Government’s new investment Blueprint for Agriculture and Food Security, a copy of which was obtained by our correspondent in Abuja on Thursday.

Specifically, the document stated, “The total sum of N745.24bn has been proposed for investment in the agricultural sector under the First National Implementation Plan of the Vision 2020.”

The agricultural sector is strategic for the country’s food security, employment generation, wealth creation and poverty reduction as over 65 per cent of the country’s labour force is engaged in the sector.

Ironically, over the last 20 years, agriculture’s value added per capita has risen by less than one per cent annually with the resultant effect of rising food and raw materials import bills and declining level of food sufficiency

Despite the Federal Government’s laudable policies and huge budgetary allocation to the sector, the country currently spends about N450bn annually on the importation of major food commodities such as rice, sugar, milk and fish. For instance, latest statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria showed that the country spent N155bn on importation of rice in 2010.

Similarly, the government’s huge spending on fertilizer subsidy has not impacted on the sector. In the 2009 crop season, Nigeria spent N50bn to purchase 500,000 metric tons of fertilizer. While the scheme is intended to benefit small-scale farmers for increased crop yields, the real beneficiaries have been government officials, fertilizer merchants and agents.

The same applies to the commodity price support schemes, the strategic grain reserve scheme, the river basin development authorities and scrapped commodity boards only benefited merchants, contractors and government agents and not the small-scale farmers.

Investigations also revealed that the sector is currently plagued by policy and funding inconsistency as well as inefficiency in the implementation of various programmes aimed at boosting food security.

According to findings, in 2009, more than N400bn was injected into the sector, while in 2010, agriculture accounted for only 3.7 per cent of budgetary allocation (recurrent N34.4bn and capital N49.9bn).

However, between 1977 and 2005, government’s funding for the sector was characterised by inconsistency.

In 1977, agriculture’s share of the national budget was less than one per cent; in 1980, 1.3 per cent; 1982, 4.2 per cent; 1983, six per cent; 1984, two per cent; 1985, five per cent; 1993, 3.2 per cent; 2000, one per cent; 2001, 4.2 per cent and 2005, 1.6 per cent.

But with the new investment plan for the sector, the Federal said it planned to reduce the present level food import by 50 per cent by 2013; encourage the rehabilitation of all existing irrigation facilities; review and develop an agricultural land policy that will address the problems of soil fertility by 2011.

According to the new investment blueprint, the Federal government also plans to derive 50 per cent of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings through agro-exports by 2013 as well reduce the current level of food import by 90 per cent in 2020.

The document stated, “The Federal Government will provide incentives by way of loans and subsidies; complete the establishment of gazette forest and grazing reserves by 2015; achieve the adoption of improved species of seeds and brood stock by 50 per cent to the farmers by 2015.

“During the plan period, the focus of the Federal Government includes the establishment of abattoirs in all the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory under a Private-Public Partnership programme. The programme will be driven by the private sector while the government, at all levels, will provide the enabling operating environment.”

It added, “One of the key priority projects during the period is to provide training for 10,000 youths annually. There is the need to professionalise agriculture to attract youths and new graduates to agricultural production, processing and marketing. Also, the government will establish a framework to strengthen the research and extension linkages. Federal universities of agriculture in each of the former regions shall be mandated to offer technologies for the former regions as well as provide sustained training and certificates to extension personnel in agriculture in those locations.”

Source : Punch