The importance of the Nigerian agricultural sector to the economic growth of the country cannot be overemphasized. A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics showed the sector contributed 22.35 per cent to the nation’s overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in first quarter of 2021 (Q1 2021).
This underscores the importance of the sector and the potentials it has in steering the nation to economic freedom and self-sufficiency.
It is in realization of this that the Federal Government and stakeholders in the sector met in Abuja to strategize on ways to nurture the sector to contribute more to the nation’s economic growth.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the sixth edition of the Feed Nigeria Summit 2021, with the theme – ‘Post-COVID-19: A repaired food system, pathway to a revived economy’, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Nanono, said there was need to reposition the agricultural sector as the key economic growth vehicle, expressing the hope that the summit would build Nigeria’s agribusiness ecosystem efficiently and sustainably.
He contended that the summit could not be more pivotal to the national discourse on how to create a sustainable growth trajectory, using agriculture as the leverage to revive and stabilize the economy.
For him, the summit was an opportunity for the stakeholders to review the new agricultural policy of the ministry; the National Agricultural Transformation and Innovation Plan (NATIP) and to discuss the implementation vehicles for the processes.
“The Federal Government has continued to implement new strategies to aid the development of the agricultural sector and strengthen the value chain. The focus of the National Agricultural Transformation and Innovation Plan (NATIP) is to aid a new strategy that strengthens the agricultural financial system, reducing food imports and helping to refocus attention on agriculture as a key driver of the Nigerian economy.
“The current administration, under the leadership of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, is keen on creating an enabling environment for the private sector to lead the recovery of the agricultural sector. At the ministry, we remain gallant in our support of strategic private sector incursions that will provide the much-needed infrastructure, systems, control processes, and oversight to ensure a nuanced commercial development of Nigeria’s agricultural market.
“Emphasis will be placed on tracking the implementation status of the special agro-industrial processing zones (SAPZ) as well as the Green Imperative Programme of the government. By their terms of reference (ToR), these two programnes will address the existing concerns around critical infrastructural provision, technological innovation, mechanization and extension, as core components of the FMARD’s policy thrust,” he said.
The minster announced that the mechanization policy would kick off by first quarter of next year, 2022 and it will cover 632 local government areas, private sector driven services centers, with equipped tractors, farming implements, storage and IT facilities.
He charged the stakeholders including farmers, investors, financial institutions, governments and local communities to continue to collaborate effectively in ensuring the full implementation of the policy.
Earlier, the Minister of State for Agriculture Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri said “for a sustainable food system, we must rise to overcome the challenge of poor-quality food supplies, hunger, malnutrition and improper food habit of promoting food wastage. Indeed, the food consumption pattern must change to reduce food waste’.
“This is the acceptable consumption behaviour globally that an average Nigerian especially in the urban area pays little or no attention. If we devote so much to produce, we should pay more attention to avoid waste because of its economic and environmental impact negatively. Again, the private sector is called upon to champion the campaign against food wastage and support initiative to reduce food loss,” he added.
Represented by the ministry’s director, federal department of agriculture, Mrs. Karima Babangida, Shehuri assured that the ministry would continue to ensure that agriculture moved rapidly towards modern technologies so that it would exert significant influence on the Nigeria Food System.
In his remarks, the chairman, House Committee on Agricultural Institutes and Colleges, Hon. Munir Babba Danagundi, said with Nigeria still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, poor infrastructure, gender, climate change among other factors had brought about a decrease in food production.
Danagundi advised the stakeholders to ensure the accessibility and availability of food to the average Nigerian.
According to him, ‘’there should be deliberate effort to encourage the production of conventional and unconventional protein in animals and partnership among the private sector, research institutes and investors both at home and abroad.”
Other stakeholders who spoke at the summit including representatives from AfDB, IFAD and Agribusiness Enabling Environment, called for the support of critical infrastructural provision and technological innovation to drive the policy thrust of the ministry geared towards achieving food and nutrition security, creating jobs for the teeming Nigeria youths and boosting the economy.