To start with, cotton as a major cash crop is of considerable social and economic importance to Nigeria. Cotton and textile activities are widespread in the country. Cotton farming and production dates back to 1903 with the British Cotton Growers Association taking the lead until 1974 when it was disbanded and replaced with Cotton Marketing Board to develop gin and market the produce.
The Federal Government of Nigeria in September 2012 released N54 billion to boost mass production of cotton in the country. To further demonstrate its commitment to improve cotton production, the federal government signed a memorandum of understanding with the West African Cotton Company, WACOT, on plans to revive cotton production in the country.
The agreement with WACOT was aimed at enhancing the productivity of the ginneries from 150kg to 450kg of lint and increasing production of cotton seeds from 120, 000 tons by 2015. WACOT has begun an awareness and training of farmers on modern agronomic practices. The ultimate aim is to restore Nigeria’s fortune in the area of cotton production aimed bringing back the glory of cotton farming in Nigeria.
The major consequence of neglect of the agricultural sector in Nigeria during the oil boom years of 1970-1980s was the decline in total food and fibre production and astronomical rise in input prices. These general problems of agricultural sector also affect the cotton industries which hitherto played an important role in the economy. Cotton as an important cash crop in Nigeria was the 5th most important export crop and a major source of foreign exchange earnings for the country.
The major constraints facing cotton farmers are lack of fertiliser, frequency of spray, market opportunities, in-adequate knowledge of the production packages and non-availability of these technologies. This is in addition to pests and other diseases which pose a threat to cotton production.
Commenting on the developments in the textile industry in the country, Director of the Institute of Agricultural Research of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Professor Ibrahim Umar Abubakar, said efforts at reviving cotton production are aimed at restoring the contribution of the produce to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). He said it is worrisome that cotton’s contribution to GDP had reduced significantly from 25% to 0.4%, saying that everything must be done to reverse the trend. Professor Abubakar who spoke in Zaria at the Annual Cotton Master Sample and Production Meeting noted that farmers have been producing cotton in large quantity.
Sadly for Nigeria’s potential, successive governments did not show much interest in the last two decades towards cotton production, because of the almost total reliance on the oil boom. In 2009, the then minister of state for finance, Remi Babalola disclosed that the federal government was giving N70 billion as bail out in the form of bank guarantee to enable the sector get back to operation. This never happened.
However, we are very grateful to the present administration under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari who has high interest in agriculture. The present administration is fully committed to cotton farming and reviving textile and garment industries and the raw material to propel the accomplishment of such mission.
It is on record that the IAR had recently released three new cotton varieties to facilitate the revival of textile industries across Nigeria. The cotton varieties released by the institute are often pest-resistant.
Vice-Chancellor of ABU, Professor Ibrahim Garba, was of the opinion that if Nigeria produces her own cotton and revives the textile industry, unemployment and poverty would significantly go down and would be a thing of the past.
Due to the concern to the fight of the Textile Industry and personal commitment shown by President Buhari, he directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to immediately release the approved N19.18bn to fund nine ginneries across the country. Disclosing this in Abuja recently, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this at the signing of a memorandum of understanding with some critical stakeholders of cotton, textile and garment sub-sector. The approval was to retool processing plants and provide them with improved access to finance at single digit interest rate and it is aimed at sustaining their operations and improve their production capacity.
The MoU was signed between CBN and Nigeria Cotton Association of Nigeria, Ginners Association of Nigeria as well as Nigerian Textile and Garment Manufacturers Association. Others that signed the MoU with CBN include armed forces, Nigeria Police Force, paramilitary institutions, NYSC and some uniform organisations.
Emefiele explained that CBN is all out to improve the links between cotton farmers and ginneries, by ensuring that ginneries are able to off-take the high-quality cotton produced by these farmers.
In the words of the CBN governor, the same support will be extended to the textile and garment firms adding that government had invested heavily in our local textile and garment factories to retool and produce assorted uniforms for our uniformed services that meet international standards.
Towards this end government has also constituted a Textile Revival Implementation Committee which includes the CBN, Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development; Water Resources; ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment; and the Governments of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Gombe and Zamfara states.
To confirm its commitment to the new effort, the PMB administration had directed the Nigerian Armed forces, para military, MDAs, to procure their uniforms and other relevant accessories from the defence industries corporation, DICON-SUR, jointly owned by Nigeria and the Turkish firm, SUR Corporatewear, when it fully becomes functional by 2021. To be based in Kaduna, the company is expected to develop a local brand of textile materials and accessories. For the records, the Defence Industries Corporation, DICON, was established in 1964 with the mandate of producing military and para military equipment needs of the Armed forces of Nigeria and other security agencies has not met the desired expectations of the nation. The company targets 1, 000 employees and is expected to grow to 5, 000 employees.
The overriding aim was for the committee driving the initiative to achieve self-sufficiency in Cotton production and textile materials within a span of three years.
In line with the anticipation of what the new policy direction of government would be on the textile industry, some patriotic Nigerians are all out to take advantage of the situation for their good, Nigeria’s economy and in the overall interest of Nigerians. For example, A Kano-based textile trading company, Mudassir & Brothers, says it has commenced processes of establishing a textile manufacturing company worth over $50 million in the state.
Disclosing the plan at a press conference in Kano recently, Chairman of the company, Mudassir Abubakar, said the decision was to complement President Buhari’s policy of encouraging local production of qualitative goods, creating wealth and job opportunities for the youths.
Towards this end the Kano state Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, had already approved the allocation of 22.5 hectares of land for the establishment of the company. The company when it comes on stream would provide more than 10,000 jobs to Youths in the state and beyond.
The New Telegraph newspaper in its editorial recently titled ‘ CBN’s rare passion for textile sector noted that ‘’the current steps taken by federal government through the apex bank, looks good enough to bring back the sector’’. According to the paper, it was basically for this reason that the apex bank’s decision to place a complete ban on access to foreign exchange meant for all forms textile material import and going ahead to direct dealers to desist from granting such importers access to same in any of their windows as a right step in the right direction.
It is therefore commendable that the senate at its session on November 12, 2019, directed the government to ban importation of all textile materials into the country for the next five years.
It is therefore not in doubt that President Buhari means well for the Textile industry in particular and for the country in general. All he needs is patriotism, commitment and cooperation to realise his dreams of revamping all sectors of the Nigerian economy for the good of Nigerians.
Ilallah writes from Emeka Anyaoku Street, Maitama, Abuja via [email protected]No tags for this post.