Why upward review of agric budget in 2023 is imperative
A dismal 1.7 per cent was allocated to the Agriculture sector in the 2022 annual national budget – a far cry from the 10 per cent benchmark recommended at the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods.
The declaration was the significant highlight of the 23rd Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in 2014. Although the AU Heads of State and Government committed themselves to the declaration, majority of the countries, including Nigeria have failed to implement the deal.
Worried about this development, which has been linked to the increasing food crisis across the country, especially this year, stakeholders in the sector have girded their loins to influence the upward review of the sector’s national budget allocation across the various strata of government.
Just last week, a consultative meeting was held in Lagos, on the 2023 Agriculture sector budget, mainly to seek ways to effect increase of the national budget from the current abysmal 1.7 to 10 per cent, ahead of the call for budget circulars.
The stakeholders, drawn from organisations, government ministries, departments and agencies, institutes and bodies of farmers, appealed to the Federal Government and other sub-national governments to give priority to agriculture by committing 10 per cent of their yearly budget to the sector.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Bima Muhammad Enagi, said despite the challenges facing the sector, agriculture remains the largest contributor to the country’s GDP in the second quarter of 2022 at 23.3 per cent; beyond the contributions of Trade (16.8 per cent), Telecommunication (15 per cent), Manufacturing (8.7 per cent) and the Oil and Gas sector (6.3 per cent).
He said: “The agricultural sector has the largest potential to lead millions of Nigerians out of poverty. Thus, the sector should be given utmost priority in national economic policies and national and sub-national budgets.
“As approved by the 44th National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD), the three tiers of government should commit 10 per cent of their yearly budget to the agriculture sector to meet the Maputo/Malabo Declaration, required to support, at least, six per cent growth rate for the sector.”
A global international organisation – Oxfam, which describes the move as timely, said the consultative meeting would facilitate more citizens’ interest and inputs into influencing increased budget allocation for agriculture in 2023 and beyond.
“Holding the meeting ahead of the call for budget circulars will allow stakeholders to influence an increase in the annual national budget allocation to agriculture sector from its current abysmal 1.7 per cent in 2022 to at least 10 per cent in 2023, in compliance with the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods,” said Oxfam International Country Director, Dr. Vincent Ahonsi.
He noted that the move would also increase stakeholders’ understanding of the government’s new agricultural policy – the National Agricultural Transformation and Innovation Plan (NATIP), as well as its connection to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) target.
“If Nigeria is to succeed in tackling the spiraling food insecurity and pervading hunger, the government needs to increase its annual agriculture budget to at least 10 per cent and provide the public funding necessary to create fair, gender-just, and sustainable food systems, particularly focusing on agro ecological production that is inherently less dependent on imports of feed and agricultural inputs, and more resilient to climate change impacts.
“Western governments will need to put their money where their mouth is, by freeing up resources through progressive taxation, and appropriately taxing billionaires – and invest the proceeds in diverse, local, sustainable food production that helps global countries to become less dependent on food imports; and support smallholder food producers, especially women and the youth,” said Ahonsi.
The Chief Executive Officer of Green Sahara Farms, Suleiman Dikwa, said the upward review of the budget would make more funds available in the sector, which is supposed to be better for the system.
“My position remains that such investment will have limited impact in the sector until we redesign the operations of our agric policy to focus on key areas that provide the most impact for most people.
“We need to analyse our spending over the last three decades and use such information to determine where we need to invest to make the desired eldorado of food security available. Food security has many components, amongst are nutrition and affordability for all. The loss of value-by-value chain players has a big role on affordability and consequently nutrition,” said Dikwa.
He noted that a desired approach is to tie resources to key areas that unlock value for the nation to meets its aspirations. “We should be cleaning up the food system from the public institutions who decide and deploy the resources to regulators who ensure standards and measurements to the private player.”