Innovation, cheap funds seen steering agric revolution

Experts in the agricultural sector have said that Nigeria can only steer a revolution in its agricultural sector when farmers adopt innovation and can access cheap funds.
Despite the agricultural sector is being touted as the most viable contingency plan for economic diversification, it is still faced with a lot of challenges ranging from inadequate access to cheap finance, poor infrastructure, low quality seeds and inadequate research funding, among others.
“To harness the potentials of the agric sector, issues such as low technology usage, insufficient access to credit, high dependence on rain fed farming and subsistence farming culture and inadequate roads r will have to be addressed,” Kolawole Adeniji, managing director, Niji Group Limited said.
“There are many areas in the agricultural sector where most states in Nigeria can exert their competitive advantage and leverage it to not only grow their internal generated revenue but also position their states as major export hubs in the African continent,” Adeniji said.
The Federal Government has devoted a lot of energy at deepening agriculture with initiatives as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), but experts believe much more is still needed to be done in the area of finance and mechanisation, which according to them is vital for increasing production and boosting productivity.
“Finance is the biggest challenge confronting farmers. It is a very serious problem that the government need to address by providing farmers will single digit loans,” said Tola faseru, national president, National Cashew Association of Nigeria.
“We need very cheap fund so that our products can be competitive globally. Most agricultural products cannot compete effectively with imported products and this is one of the reasons we have high importation rate of crops we can grow here,” Faseru added.
Nigerian farmers are lagging behind because of their inability to raise productivity and improve yield per hectare due to low level of agricultural mechanisation and modern farm inputs.
Available statistics show that Nigeria is one of the least mechanised farming countries in the world with the country’s tractor density put at 0.27 hp/ hectare which is far below the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s 1.5hp/hectare recommended tractor density for Africa and other developing countries.
“Mechanisation is a very critical issue because it will help eradicate poverty of rural farmers,” Sani Dangote, president, Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG) and vice president of Dangote Industries Limited, said in an interview with BusinessDay.
“If farmers continue to use crude equipment, their poverty can never be eradicated and the country will be unable to diversify the economy through agriculture,” Dangote said.
According to Dangote, the only way youths can find agriculture attractive is through mechanised farming. “With mechanisation, agriculture becomes attractive for the youths and they can take it up as a profession,” he added.
A mechanised farm with the appropriate machineries is able to sow 15 hectares a day, compared to if it is manually done with hoes, cutlasses and human labour- the best under a favourable condition is one hectare.
The government plans to spend N119 billion for the agricultural sector in 2018 budget, with N65.2 billion on capital expenditure and N53.8 billion on recurrent expenditure.
 
Josephine Okojie
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