With the continual dwindling prices of oil in the global market in 2016, experts in the Nigerian agricultural sector are of the opinion that agriculture is a way out to oil and should be given priority in terms of funding and policies.
For a very long time, agriculture has been the back bone of the Nigerian economy. As a matter of fact, a lot of countries depend solely on agriculture as the main source of their revenue. The importance of agriculture in Nigeria cannot be over emphasised, especially since we are not strangers to how life was before and during the colonial era when we depended on the production of food crops and cash crops. Food crops did more than enough in sustaining the everyday domestic food requirement and cash crops generated bountiful revenue, which grew the economy.
The 1970s saw the oil boom period and with the dominant poor maintenance culture and non-challant 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 mid 1970s Nigeria spent a meager N113 million which was the return from oil export to import agricultural produce; if Nigeria would invest in agriculture sector, Nigeria might, according to report, save N2 billion in the first year, a calculated progressive figure as year goes on.
On the other hand, the farming system has set back and people do not seem to be interested in agriculture which made many youth to migrate from the rural to urban areas in search of white collar jobs which are not readily available.
The country’s crops that could earn huge foreign exchange include beans, yams, sesame cashew nuts, cassava, banana, cocoa, groundnuts, maize, rice, and rubber. In the past, Nigeria was a major player in the world’s agricultural industry once recognised as the world’s largest producer of groundnuts palm produce as well as the second largest exporter of cocoa.
Nigeria was self-sufficient in agriculture during that time and also Nigeria currency was stronger than the American dollars but with the oil discovery in 1956 we abandoned that all important income earner in favour of oil. Now the price of oil has gone down in the international market which led our country to fall into the economic recession today.
During the colonial era cash crops were introduced, Harbours, railways and road were developed and a market for consumer goods began to emerge. At independence in 1960 agriculture accounted for well over half of our gross domestic product (GDP) and was the main source of export earning public revenue with the agricultural marketing board playing a leading role. But today this leading role in the economy has been taken over by the national oil company the
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The development of agricultural sector would also help in giving a lift to other sectors of the economy by creating the revenue needed for investing in those sectors.
Government needs to consider farming as serious business rather than an alternative to crude oil if food security will be achieved.
By Falmata Bukar Kale,
300 Level student,
Mass Communication Department,
University of Maiduguri