With the persistent dwindling price of crude oil in the global market coupled with naira devaluation in 2016, economic experts opine that agriculture is the only option that can make Nigeria to stand on its feet. This has made the current administration to emphasise on domestic production of food in order to ensure food security in the country.
During the colonial era, cash crops were introduced, harbours, railways and roads were developed and a market for consumer goods emerged. After independence in 1960, Nigeria’s agricultural sector accounted for well over half of our gross domestic product (GDP) and was the main source of export earning, with public revenue from agricultural marketing boards playing a leading role. But today this leading role of agriculture in the economy has been taken over by the unreliable crude oil.
Initially, Nigeria was self-sufficient in agriculture and also its currency was stronger than the American dollar but with the discovery of oil in 1956 we abandoned this all important income earner. The 1970s saw the oil boom period in Nigeria, and with the poor maintenance culture and non-chalant attitude, Nigeria left the agricultural sector in a pathetic state of retrogression, a regrettable decision that has since been biting hard at both the government and the masses.
In the 1970s, Nigeria spent N113 million which was the return from oil export to import agricultural produce, whereas the country could be among the leading economies in the world if adequate investment were done in the agricultural sector. The importance of agriculture in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized just as food production can help in the economic growth of any country, particularly Nigeria, which is endowed with huge natural resources.
A major set-back for agriculture is that farming has become unattractive with many youths to migrating from the rural to urban areas in search for white collar jobs, which are not readily available. This has led to the non-cultivation of a number of crops that could earn huge foreign exchange. These crops include beans, yam, sesame, cashew nuts, cassava, banana, cocoa, groundnuts, maize, rice as well as rubber. In the past, Nigeria used to be a major player in the agricultural sector and once recognized as the world’s largest producer of groundnut, palm produce and the second largest exporter of cocoa.
The development of agricultural sector would enhance the growth of other sectors of the economy and improve revenue generation. Government has a role to play by subsidizing modern farming facilities, providing modern seeds and fertilizer at the right time. Nigerians also have to consider farming as most essential business that will ensure food security in the country.
Abubakar Sadiq Dayyabu
and Shehu Shuaibu,
Mass Communication Department,
University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri