Nigerian agriculture turns focus inward, cuts down imports

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Nigerian agriculture turns focus inward, cuts down imports

Nigeria must move away from agricultural imports and focus on commercializing domestic farming, minster of agriculture Dr. Akinwumi Adesina told newspaper the Daily Trust last week.450px-OAU_Palm_farm

"We have huge potentials and capacity that we are not unlocking. The reason for this is that way too long we had taken agriculture as a development activity in which we were simply managing poverty in rural areas," he explained to the African publication.

So fundamentally and structurally for me the first thing I had to do was that we shift from agriculture as a development program to agriculture as a business program."

The minster said only about 40% of the nation's 84 million hectares of arable land was cultivated, allowing vast potential to go to waste.

"We used to be number one in cotton production in West Africa which employed many people in the north. We used to be number one in palm oil production but now we import from Malaysia and Indonesia.

"We were number two in cocoa production in the world but we have lost that to Ivory Coast, Ghana and Cameroon, and following up very quickly is Indonesia."

To untap potential and make Africa's most populated nation more competitive, Adesina has argued against agricultural imports.

"We have a lot of unemployment in the rural areas and yet we are pounded with imported food. For me as a minister I cannot take that. I cannot be a minister of food importation with all that potential," he said.

"When you are dependent on food import you are creating jobs for other countries. You are making their economy to work but at home you are creating joblessness. As we spend money on importing food, the naira weakens. Foreign exchange goes down. Our farmers are displaced by those needless imports."

Adesina's comments came at the same time as a federal government decision to end wheat imports with the hope of benefiting local farmers, Vanguard reported.

Through cassava substitution, the minister argued Nigeria would be able to cut its dependency on imported wheat.

"As we implement accelerated cassava flour production, with the installation of the industrial scale cassava flour plants, expand cassava production and deploy hundreds of compact modular milling systems, Nigeria's dependency on imported wheat will decline even further," he said in Vanguard.

Adesina also met with the ambassadors of Belgium and Ireland last week to promote Nigerian horticultural exports. He emphasized the potential of promoting big crops such as citrus, pineapple, mangoes and tomotoes. With a market strategy, he said the nation can see international success, much like other African nations have.

"Ethiopia entered the horticulture market as a late comer but got things right, so we have to be aggressive in brand marketing of produce coming out of Nigeria," he said in Vanguard.

Photo: Obafemi Awolowo University palm farm by Ukabia via Wikimedia Commons


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