3.2% budget allocation to agric a bundle of contractions
The government has often harped on diversification of the economy through agriculture. However, the 2018 budget to the sector speaks a different language. Femi Ibirogba presents views of experts on the 3.2% allocation to the agricultural sector.
There must have been some excitement in some quarters as the much awaited 2018 appropriation bill was signed into law by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government on June 20, with aggregate expenditures of N9.12 trillion.But for the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, where, for both recurrent and capital expenditures, a budget of N203 billion was allocated, which represents 3.2% of the total national budget, it contradicts the self-acclaimed willpower of the government to diversify the economy using agriculture. Actions speak louder than words. A budget of any country is surely an indication of where its needs and interests lie. The poor allocation to the sector appears to have made the repeated claim of commitment of the government a cacophony.
The bulk of the budget inevitably goes into the vicious cycles of recurrent expenditure, while the scanty sum of N25.1 billion was allocated to promotion and development of agricultural value chains across more than 30 different commodities.Mono-cultural economy has been responsible for undulating fortunes of developing economies around the world, rotating their economies between booms and recessions, with the developing economies bearing the brunt of intermittent global economic contractions.
India and China, in the 40s, started with mono-cultural economies based mainly on primitive agriculture that survived mainly on production of raw materials for Britain, Germany and other industrialised economies. However, while these countries have employed education, technologies, and political will to really diversify their economies, Nigeria continues to pay lip services to diversification, and hence lingers in the corridor of oil-based economies and subjected to the throat-cutting forces of demand and supply in the international crude oil market. Saudi Arabia and Qatar have long ago converted their oil-borne riches into more diversified economies, dislodging the argument that oil deposits are more of curses than blessings.
Action speaks louder than word. A budget of any country is surely an indication of where its need and interest lie. Questions coming to right-thinking Nigerians are with 3.2 per cent of the budget to agriculture, is Nigeria sincere about its claims of commitment to food security, poverty alleviation, Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradicating hunger, and bringing down the percentage of external reserves spent annually on food imports?
Maputo / Malabo declarations
Nigeria was a signatory the Maputo and Malabo declarations in 2003 and 2014 respectively. During the Second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, Mozambique, African Heads of State and Government endorsed the “Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.” The declaration contained several important decisions regarding agriculture, but prominent among them was the commitment to the allocation of at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years.Fifteen years after the declaration, Nigeria is yet to measure up in term of commitment of resources to the sector, as indicated in the 2018 budget of 3.2 per cent.
A former Provost of the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Ibadan, who is also former Director of Livestock during the last administration, Dr Ademola Raji, said described the budget as rubbish.To him, because agriculture is so important that it is “the basic line to food security and the next line to manufacturing, the allocation should be well over 15% of the annual national budget,” adding that agricultural activities employ the largest portion of the workforce in the country and could do more if investments are committed to the sector.
Dr Raji expressed the view that though the Federal Government’s budget was not a good model to states in that it could influence them negatively, they should allocate over 20% of their budgets to the sector on the ground that most agricultural activities, even of the Federal Government, are executed at the state levels.In 2014, as a follow-up to the Maputo Declaration, AU Heads of State and Government adopted the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agriculture Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Some of the goals within the Malabo Declaration address similar goals to Maputo, but with more specific targets and goals. The goals to be achieved are recommitment to enhance investment finance in agriculture; a commitment to end hunger by 2025 including; at least a doubling of productivity (inputs, irrigation, and mechanisation) and commitment to halve poverty by 2025 through inclusive agricultural growth and transformation, among others.
Supporting the views of Dr Raji, the chairman of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Oyo State chapter, Mr Banji Akanji, said the allocation to the sector fell short of expectations of Nigerians, and could never make agriculture to replace whichever sector that had been dominating the economy.He advocated a minimum of 35% to the sector if it would be used to diversify the economy and create employment as often indicated by the governments.
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of eradicating hunger
Consistently, budgets to eradicate hunger and poverty via agriculture, including the current one, have been backward, grossly inadequate and often misappropriated, resulting in failure to achieve the The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) even three years after the target year. This implies paying lip services to the sector that should be second to none.
The MDGs are eight goals with targets of improving the lives of the world’s poorest people by eradicating hunger and poverty. Leaders of 189 countries signed the historic millennium declaration at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. At that time, eight goals that ranged from providing universal primary education to avoiding child and maternal mortality were set with a target achievement date of 2015.Project Director of the Cassava: Adding Value for Africa (C:AVA), Professor Kolawole Adebayo, while saying that low allocation to the sector was contradictory to the economic recovery plan of the government, described the percentage to agriculture as a “historical deficiency in our planning for the agricultural sector.”
According to Professor Adebayo, if the country desired to diversify the economy, it must invest massively in the agricultural sector where the country is at a vantage position not only to feed itself but also convert the remnant to industrial products for export. He opined that the greatest investor in the agricultural infrastructure and extension services should be the Federal Government as the largest spender.
“This budget,” Adebayo said, “like the previous ones, has not changed strategy, and we should not expect a different result.” He also expressed doubt about the ability of the government to increase food production with the meager budget to the food-producing sector, making the goal of eradicating hunger and poverty a wishful thinking.
Food security drive
A former provost of the Federal College of Agriculture, Akure, Dr (Mrs) Mary Ogunkoya, said the government appeared not committed to making Nigeria self-sufficient in food and raw material production for industrialisation with the despicable budgetary allocations to the agricultural sector despite its ugly experience in the last two years battling with economic recession as a result of overdependence on oil as the main source of revenue to the country. She said the budget opposed to the false claim and impressions being created by the Muhammadu Buhari-led government about its interest in agriculture, describing the achievement of food security and hunger eradication in this context as a mirage.
Food security requires investments on research and development, but the budget gives little or no room for intensive and sustainable research that can facilitate agricultural technologies. Without production and value chain technologies, as well as improved sciences of crop genetics, average yield per hectare would continue to be abysmally low. Achieving food security and low budget to the agricultural sector belong to different worlds.
A former deputy governor of Ondo State during the Olusegun Mimiko-led administration, who was a commissioner for agriculture and now a poultry farmer, Alhaji Lasisi Oluboyo, while reacting to the budget, said more resources should be allocated to the sector, adding that to diversify the economy, there should be a paradigm shift from production and export of raw materials to processing and export of finished products.
Production of finished products, he said, required processing facilities and raw material storage facilities to mop up produce during the production seasons. For instance, he said poultry farmers in Nigeria do experience intermittent egg gluts, and that putting an egg powder machinery in place to mop up eggs is too capital intensive, running into billions of naira. According to him, effectively tackling gluts not only in the poultry but also in other areas of agriculture would require persistent heavy investments in holding capacities and processing facilities which individuals might not be able to finance. Dean, Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, University of Ibadan, Professor Bamidele Omitoyin, berated Federal Government for allocating so little resources to a very crucial sector of the economy, describing the 2018 agricultural budget as “unacceptable.”
Professor Omitoyin said: “To me, it is not a serious commitment to food security plan, because it is one of the lowest in recent times. It cannot help agricultural development at all. How will it be possible to achieve food security if the government does not fund agriculture well? It is not good enough.”Rice import substitution requires heavy capital investment in infrastructure that can make paddy production transcend the rain-fed system. Dams and other infrastructures therefore have to be made available, rehabilitated, expanded and widely accessible to farmers for dry season rice farming. Poor and belated budgetary allocation to this course, couple with high level of corruption in the economic system, sufficient locally produced rice seems to be unrealistic.It will be recalled that the Federal Government has categorically said it will permanently close some porous borders aiding smuggling of rice into the country. To close the borders while making no tangible preparation to rev up local production is not only contradictory but also untenable.
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