In my own view, no amount is too much or too little to be invested in the agric sector but it depends on the utilisation of such funds. Even if N1tn is voted for agriculture and it is not well utilised, the money will amount to nothing.
I have no problem with the amount in the budgetary allocation this year but let it be utilised judiciously. I can see that this government is making efforts in this direction. N92bn budgetary allocation is not a joke and it can make a huge impact in the sector if the amount is judiciously spent.
The money should get to the farmers because the problem we have been having is that money allocated to agric before usually does not leave Abuja but this will make a great impact if the amount gets to the farmers.
My view now is that government should focus on value addition because that is where the money in agriculture is. Money is not on the farm but in value addition. We produce enough food to feed everyone in Nigeria but we lose a large chunk of if due to post harvest loss.
We must invest in food processing and value addition to have enough food for local consumption and even for export. We produce so much but we lose the food as well.
For example, five tubers of yam are being sold for less than N3,000; famers have to sell everything at the same time because they cannot preserve them. So, I want a large part of the fund to be invested in food processing and value addition because that is where the real money is. •Prof. Labode Popoola (Vice-Chancellor, Osun State University)
The amount (N92bn) budgeted for the agricultural sector by the Federal Government in the 2017 budget is grossly inadequate for a country that is largely agrarian in nature and seeking to diversify its economy by taking advantage of the vast opportunities in the agricultural sector.
I wonder what percentage of the total budget the money would represent. The truth of the matter is that peasant farmers will still continue to struggle to feed Nigerians and I believe that the percentage can be increased because it is grossly inadequate considering the depression Nigerians are going through now.
I can imagine a situation where each local government in Nigeria prepares 1,000 hectares of land for farmers to use. If you multiply that by all the local government areas in Nigeria, it is a huge investment.
Nigerian farmers are not carried along by the government before coming out with agricultural policies. In such a situation, those policies cannot work. Nigerian farmers don’t get the required financial support from the government. The policy on rice and wheat production is selective. What about other cash and food crops that Nigeria can produce? Are we going to eat rice and wheat alone?
Some years back, Nigeria was the third largest producer of cocoa but today, we are no longer reckoned with in that area. I wonder how we want to practise mechanised farming with such a ridiculous amount.
The tractors bought by state governments were given to politicians who hired them to farmers at huge amounts that farmers cannot afford. In Oyo State, a tractor is given out at N20,000 for a day. How many farmers can afford that? Farmers are using labourers who use cutlasses and hoes to cultivate the land. How many hectares of land can you prepare with cutlasses and hoes?
Nigeria must consider cluster farming where large farmlands are prepared by the government and given to farmers in groups in each local government. When they harvest, government buys the crops from them through produce board. This is what is done in Asia where we buy our rice.
The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo established a marketing board in the western region that has now been scrapped with no replacement. I know several farmers who call me regularly that they have hectares of farmland with mature crops waiting to be harvested. Government should establish a board that will assist these farmers in the marketing of their produce. •Chief Olatunji Bandele (Secretary of Agbekoya Farmers Union in Nigeria)
For what we need to resuscitate agriculture, that N92bn is too small. In the situation we have found ourselves now, agriculture should be the first priority sector in the budget. It should be a sector that should give us what we are looking for. We have the land, good weather, large population and the potential for employment in agriculture is very high. So, I thought that the government would have looked at all the potential and invested in it. If you look at our cocoa, it could be processed to chocolate. We have many raw materials from agriculture that could be processed and even serve our industries as further raw materials. The investment is not just to produce but to also process. •Prof. Job Atteh (A specialist in Animal Production, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ilorin)
It (N92bn) is not enough to ensure diversification. All along, the nation has been operating on a mono-economy – oil. But as it is now, the oil is no longer selling in the world market, so there is the need for us to diversify our resources. Going by the normal requirement, every country is supposed to earmark 10 per cent of her total budget for agriculture. By the time you look at that rate, the budgeted amount is even lower than 10 per cent of the total budget.
The issue now is, would the budgeted amount be managed well? Is it not going to be managed by some of these politicians who would embezzle part of the money? Even if some of the money is allocated to farmers as incentives to mobilise them or subsidise and provide fertilisers, it will be better. Some of the allocated funds do not get to farmers. That is where we have been having problems in this country. We have people who will get these funds on behalf of farmers but divert them into their personal coffers.
To ensure diversification as a nation, we have to be serious. We have to be up and doing. All hands must be on deck. We must face the reality.
Corruption must end in all ramifications. There must be monitoring organisations to follow up the implementation of financial allocations and disbursements. There should be a prudent management of available resources to boost agricultural development. •Dr. Salau Abdulganiyu (Lecturer Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension Services, College of Agriculture, Kwara State University)
The N92bn budgeted for the agric sector cannot ensure the needed diversification of the sector because it is grossly inadequate. There’s no gainsaying the fact that agriculture is critical to the development of the country.
In the first instance, all the materials used by industries are derived basically from agriculture. Many of the industries depend on agricultural products to survive. As far as I am concerned, that amount is too small if we are serious about really developing the economy.
If we are really serious about diversification into agriculture, agriculture should get much more than that amount.
I don’t think there is anybody who does not eat. That shows you the kind of importance that should be given to agriculture.
Food is so important. Without food, there is nothing anybody can do. Without food, there is no life.
If the country is really serious about turning the economy around, we need to pump more money into agriculture.
Agriculture, science and technology are vital to the nation’s development. But even scientists need food to be able to think well.
It is only those who take balanced diet that will not fall sick. •Mr. Segun Dasaolu (Ogun State Chairman, All Farmers Association of Nigeria)
Considering the current economic recession and shortage of funds, I think N92bn, if effectively and judiciously put in the right place, will get Nigerians an encouraging result. The economy is presently in a bad shape. So, we can manage that (N92bn) for now. The entire funds must be put into the agricultural sector.
If not for the recession, I will say that the amount is too small and will not be able to move us from a mono-economy to a diversified economy. Agriculture can actually become the mainstay of the Nigerian economy as against the current reliance on petroleum products.
For now, we have to make do with what we have and I am calling on those that will manage the funds for the development of the agricultural sector to make a judicious use of what is available. Nigerians can guarantee this by being vigilant and ask those in position of power to be transparent and do the needful by managing the resources at their disposal well. The only way we can make them to do the needful is to keep an eye on them and ensure that the N92bn does not go into private pockets. • Mr. Anyakwe Nsirimovu, (Executive Director, Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law)
The budget was anchored on pulling the economy out of recession and stagflation as well as taking the path of self-sustainable growth. What is important is not the budgetary amount set aside for funding agriculture.
We need to focus on the policies that support backward and forward integration and seek to make agriculture a business rather than just for self-sufficiency.
The National Bureau of Statistics data has shown that the contribution of agriculture to nominal GDP, for example, has grown higher than it was. This, however, needs to be complemented by walking the talk in ensuring the 2017 budget fiscal stimulus is implemented as much as possible. •Mr. Rislanudeen Mohammed (Former Managing Director, Unity Bank Plc)
- Compiled by Chukwudi Akasike, Femi Atoyebi, Samuel Awoyinfa, Femi Makinde, Success Nwogu, Ifeanyi Onuba and Afeez Hanafi
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