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Low budgets mar economic diversification through agriculture

By Femi Ibirogba, Head, Agro-Economy
07 December 2021   |   4:05 am
Agricultural industry operators, including farmers and researchers, have bemoaned the sorry state of budgetary allocations to the sector by the Federal Government and states despite their so-called emphasis on diversification of the economy through the sector.

•‘2022 agric budget ridiculous, contravenes Maputo declarations’
Agricultural industry operators, including farmers and researchers, have bemoaned the sorry state of budgetary allocations to the sector by the Federal Government and states despite their so-called emphasis on diversification of the economy through the sector.

Persistent low budgets to the sector, at about two per cent of the total yearly budget, they said, had made diversifying the economy through agro-industrial activities difficult, and had worsened food production challenges retarding productivity of both researchers and farmers.

Available data indicates that under the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, despite the so-called economic recovery focused on agriculture, allocations for agriculture were 1.70 per cent in 2017; 2.0 per cent in 2018; 1.56 per cent in 2019; 1.34 per cent in 2020; 1.37 per cent in 2021 and
1.8 per cent in 2022 (N291.4 billion — N71.8 billion for personnel cost; N3.7 billion for overhead and N215.8 billion for capital expenditure).

These low budgets affect a number of things that are essential for productivity of farmers and food security, as well as diversification of the economy through import substitution industrialisation.

Breeding of new varieties and strains of plant and animals, development of improved production and processing technologies through research and extension of new techniques of production and value chain activities, among others, have been hampered by poor allocation of resources.

Non-availability of farm equipment and implements for mechanisation and large-scale cultivation is a fallout of the same challenge, and hence the preponderance of small-scale system of farming and the attendant insufficient food.

Nigeria was a signatory to the Maputo Declaration, which recommended at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture, at the Second Ordinary Assembly of the African Union in July 2003 in Maputo, but budgets in the country have remained below five per cent.

It would be recalled that African Heads of State and Government endorsed the ‘Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa,’ where they expressed “commitment to the allocation of at least 10 per cent of national budgetary resources to agriculture and rural development policy implementation within five years.”

As a follow-up, again, Heads of State and Government of the African Union, at their 23rd Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, from 26-27 June 2014, on the theme of the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security: “Transforming Africa’s Agriculture for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods through Harnessing Opportunities for Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development,’’ also reiterated previous decisions and declarations on agriculture, food and nutrition security, in particular the 2003 Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security in Africa.

A Canada-based associate professor of Criminology at the University of Alberta, who also doubles as Joint Editor-in-Chief of African Security and Special Adviser, Police Act Review, Government of Alberta, Dr. Temitope Oriola, said the consistently low allocation to agriculture is surprising given its centrality to the livelihood of many Nigerians.

He said: “Large-scale, mechanised agriculture and assistance to small-scale farmers need to be part of the centerpiece of Nigeria’s economic growth and development.

“There are many sectors that can be developed from a succinct focus on agriculture. The move towards electric vehicles and specific target dates being set across the world mean that Nigeria needs to begin to prepare for a post-oil world.”

The post-oil world economy, he said, “entails curbing waste, cost of governance, and unnecessary bureaucratic bottlenecks in service delivery at all levels of government.”

A former Vice Chancellor of Al-Qalam University Katsina and grain breeder at Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, Prof. Ado Garki Shehu, said Nigeria’s allocations are grossly inadequate for the anticipated rapid agricultural growth and development to shift from a monoculture economy of crude oil.

He reiterated that “African Heads of State and Government had, almost two decades ago, agreed to provide at least 10 per cent of national budgets to agriculture and you are talking of a paltry 1.8 per cent for year 2022!

“This is ridiculous considering the importance of agriculture in the country’s economy. African countries, which budgeted the agreed 10 per cent or more, have actually improved their agricultural production and food self-sufficiency.”

Prof. Ado said countries like Rwanda and South Africa have been doing about 10 per cent.

“So, Nigeria needs to implement the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture to the latter for the county to be self-sufficient and export agricultural commodities to earn foreign exchange. Nigeria has all the requirements to be self-sufficient for food as it has optimum environmental conditions for crop and livestock production,” he warned.

Nigeria is already the largest producer of some crops in Africa, such as rice, cassava and sorghum, as well as largest producer of other crops, including maize, in West and Central Africa.

In the same vein, the outgoing Director-General of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Dr Nteranya Sanginga, had said during a press parley on his 10-year tenure, that the Federal Government’s allocations for agriculture had been consistently far less than necessary.

Saginga said African leaders had not made adequate financial commitment towards advancing agriculture.