NEO GREEN FRONTIERS: The first line Agro-allied Company
NEO GREEN FRONTIERS…
The first line Agro-allied Company
The idea of an Agriculture and Agro-based or Agro-allied industry, as a strategy for accelerated economic growth is slowly beginning to take hold. This is because, embracing the new Agricultural Policy thrust of the government will serve as a bedrock to Nigeria’s economic development beyond frontiers.
Agriculture in the context of the economy is essential for generating broad based growth necessary for development. It is fundamental to the sustenance of life and is the bedrock of economic development, especially in the provision of adequate and nutritious food so vital for human development and industrial raw materials for industry thereby helping to sustain food security and stimulating the economy as a whole.
The oil boom of the 1970s caused the marginalization of Agriculture into a labour – intensive, low – productivity subsistence activity that eventually plunged large parts of rural Nigeria into abject poverty. The redirection of Agricultural policies was affected since the return of democracy in 1999 proved more successful. Under a radical reforms programme, the government targeted rural development with integrated plans for Agriculture promotion, rural industrialization and infrastructure development.
This integrated approach has yielded tangible results: Agriculture now leads the country’s economic recovery, bouncing back to contribute 42% of the GDP in 2009, 40.19% in 2011, and 39.02% in 2012, 37.92% in 2013, while 36.79% in 2014, 35.75% in 2015 and 34.74% in 2016 also 33.86% by 2017(FSDH Research). Perhaps the most significant thought arising out of this recovery is Nigeria’s natural inclination towards farming. Traditional involvement with Agriculture and the existence of diverse ecological conditions across the country offers strong potential for growth of a flourishing and suitably inter- linked agro allied industry. Nigeria’s ambitions for accelerated and inclusive economic growth are contingent on achieving a vibrant Agriculture sector that can support extensive down -the –line enterprise development and employment. In line with this assessment, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) expressly recommends the adoption of a national investment policy to diversify the Nigerian economy with a strong focus on agro – allied industries.
The fact that this sector is primed to spark off rapid enterprise development in Nigeria is simply undeniable. Enterprise potential exists in almost all areas of local farm production. According to FAO estimates, Nigeria currently produces over 100,000 metric tonnes of Kola nut, which finds use in the manufacture of beverages, liquor, and confectionaries. Yet, local processing units are rare and exports are largely limited to fresh and dry nuts with little value addition. Cassava, likewise, has emerged as a major cash crop with untapped potential in industrial use and bio – fuel development. With adequate private sector involvement, commercialised Agriculture can not only aid industrialization and employment generation but also breach the productivity gap and reduce food costs. The government’s intervention in the Agro – allied sector must essentially be aimed at creating the right environment for rapid expansion of locally – owned enterprises.
However, there are serious challenges in this direction. Industries processing of agricultural product are almost negligible, existing standards being very basic and often incomparable with export requirements. Post – harvest losses are also very high, assesses at near 50% of total production. Labour saving production and advanced harvesting and processing technologies are therefore critical for sustained revival of Nigerians Agriculture. Moreover, efficient production and marketing systems will prove vital in ensuring high quality standards and competitive prices for both domestic industries and export markets. In term of broad parameters, policies for effective development of the Agro –allied sector in Nigeria must focus on a number of key considerations: Ensuring food security by increasing supply and lowering prices with the specific aim of curbing inflation.
Agriculture in Nigeria: The New Policy Thrust
Agriculture in the context of the economy is tied with the various sectors and is essential for generating broad based growth necessary for development. Agriculture is fundamental to the sustenance of life and is the bedrock of economic development, especially in the provision of adequate and nutritious food so vital for human development and industrial raw materials for industry. Sustainable agricultural development is propelled by agricultural policy. The first national policy on agriculture was adopted in 1988 and was expected to remain valid for about fifteen years, that is, up to year 2000.
The Agricultural Policy
Nigeria's agricultural policy is the synthesis of the framework and action plans of Government designed to achieve overall agricultural growth and development. The policy aims at the attainment of self-sustaining growth in all the sub-sectors of agriculture and the structural transformation necessary for the overall socio-economic development of the country as well as the improvement in the quality of life of Nigerians.
The Broad Policy Objectives Include: -
• Attainment of self-sufficiency in basic food commodities with particular reference to those which consume considerable shares of Nigeria's foreign exchange and for which the country has comparative advantage in local production;
• Increase in production of agricultural raw materials to meet the growth of an expanding industrial sector;
• Increase in production and processing of exportable Commodities with a view to increasing their foreign exchange earning capacity and further diversifying the country's export base and sources of foreign exchange earnings;
• Modernization of agricultural production, processing, Storage and distribution through the infusion of improved technologies and management so that agriculture can be more responsive to the demands of other sectors of that Nigerian economy;
• Creation of more agricultural and rural employment Opportunities to increase the income of farmers and rural dwellers and to productively absorb an increasing labour force in the nation;
• Protection and improvement of agricultural land resources and preservation of the environment for sustainable agricultural production;
• Establishment of appropriate institutions and creation of administrative organs to facilitate the integrated development and realization of the country's agricultural potentials.
Features of the Policy
The main features of the policy include the evolution of strategies that will ensure self-sufficiency and the improvement of the level of technical and economic efficiency in food production. This is to be achieved through the introduction and adoption of improved seeds and seed stock, husbandry and appropriate machinery and equipment. Efficient utilization of resources, encouragement of ecological specialization and recognition of the roles and potentials of small scale farmers as the major production of food in the country, Reduction, in risks and uncertainties were to be achieved through the introduction of the agricultural insurance scheme to reduce natural hazards factor militating against agricultural production and security of credit outlay through indemnity of sustained losses. A nationwide, unified and all-inclusive extension delivery system under the Agricultural development Programme (ADP) was put in place in a joint Federal and State Government collaborative effort. Agro -allied industries were actively promoted. Other incentives such as rural infrastructure, rural banking, primary health care, cottage industries etc. were provided, to encourage agricultural and rural development and attract youth, including school leavers, to go back to the land. The agricultural policy is supported by sub-policies that facilitate the growth of the sector.
These sub-policies cover issues of labour, capital and land whose prices affect profitability of production systems; crops, fisheries, livestock and land use; input supply, pest control and mechanization; water resources and rural infrastructure; agricultural extension, research, technology development and transfer; agricultural produce storage, processing, marketing, credit and insurance; cooperatives, training and manpower development, agricultural statistics and information management. Implementation of the agricultural policy is, however, moderated by the macro-economic policies which provide the enabling environment for agriculture to grow pari-passu with the other sectors. These policies usually have major impact on profitability of the agricultural system and the welfare of farmers as they affect the flow of funds to the sector in terms of budgetary allocation, credit, subsidies, taxes etc. and, therefore, must be in harmony and mutually reinforcing with the agricultural policy. The macro policies comprise the fiscal, monetary, trade, budgetary policies and other policies that govern macro-prices.
Concerns of Agricultural Research in the Agricultural Policy
Research and Development including Biotechnology
The effort in this direction is to finance agricultural research including bio-technology and breeding of predators for biological control of crop pests which the private sector may not be willing to invest in due to the high capital outlay and the Prevailing low return on agricultural investments. The output of the research system would be disseminated by the extension services of States and Local governments to farmers and also from large scale to small scale farmers. In this wise, the research system will be rationalized and made more focused and demand-driven.
Animal Vaccine Production
The objective is to raise the level of vaccine production in Nigeria to self-sufficiency status and also to cater for the entire West Africa sub-region. Towards this end, the premier institution, for animal vaccine production in the sub-region, the National Veterinary Research Institute (NVR) at Vom, would be strengthened, enlarged and modernized to actualize this objective under a three-year programme.