Exploring Nigeria’s Agriculture Advantage – The Lagos Example

Recently, in response to the rising cost of food in the market, the Lagos State Government launched a five-year plan that will enhance food sufficiency in the state.

The State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, says the road map will give Lagos comparative advantages in the sector and enhance self-sufficiency in food production from the current 18 per cent up to 40 per cent over the next 60 months.

While unveiling the plan, Sanwo-Olu at Victoria Island, Lagos, said that the adverse impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on food security in Lagos and insecurity in food-producing areas of the country necessitated an immediate action towards ensuring food security for residents of Lagos.

The Governor projected that with the formal launch of the roadmap, the total investments in the agricultural sector in the State would run to $10B in the next five years.

His words: “Our strategies for sustainable Agricultural Development shall focus on three pillars. First, we will grow the upstream sector through interventions by leveraging technologies that are capable of lowering the cost of production of value chains; focus on growing the midstream and downstream sectors that are of value and lastly, we will improve on private-sector participation by developing and initiating policies that will encourage more private investments in agriculture”.

Sanwo-Olu listed some landmark investments of his administration in the agric sector to include the Lagos State Aquatic Centre of Excellence (LACE) that would boost fish production from 20% to 80%; the Imota Rice Mill; the Lagos Food Production Centre Avia, Igborosu-Badagry, as well as other statewide agriculture-focused initiatives.

It is quite soothing that Lagos is championing the return to the good old days when Nigeria used to be the major producer and exporter of certain major products in the world. For instance, the country was the highest palm producing exporter as regards oil and kernel. In cocoa, Nigeria was second to Ghana, while ranking third in groundnut production.

How Nigeria dropped from being a major producer and exporter of agricultural products in Africa to the level of being a net importer of food shocks many analysts. In the face of immense opportunities, outdated farming methods, poor market research, greed, lack of zeal and business ingenuity are some of the reasons for the decline in Nigeria’s agrarian sector.

For instance, market research led Kenyan farmers, who were in the business of planting coffee, to the discovery of a huge market for avocado in China. Following the discovery, they immediately took to their farms and in place of coffee, began planting avocado trees. That was a decade ago.

Currently, Europe is one of Kenyan’s major markets for avocadoes. Some batches of the products are also exported to China. The country’s exports of avocados peaked at 68000 tons in 2020, which raked in US$127 million for her economy. This is an increase from 59000 tons they recorded in 2019 which equals US$90.8 million.

Furthermore, Nigeria is by far the world’s largest producer of yams, accounting for over 70–76 per cent of the world production. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation report, in 1985, Nigeria produced 18.3 million tonnes of yam from 1.5 million hectares, representing 73.8 per cent of total yam production in Africa.

The United Nation’s food agency also pointed out that Nigeria produces more than 60% of the entire yams in the world. Despite this, Nigeria is not one of the world top exporters. Her neighbour, Ghana, produces far less but exports more yams to European countries such as the UK than Nigeria. Even Nigerians who exports yam to Southern and Eastern Africa including Asia, buy directly from Ghana.

Industry observers have equally faulted the way agric produce is transported in Nigeria, particularly fruits. It is almost a common practice for such fruits as pawpaw and avocado pear to be hurriedly harvested even before they reach the maturity stage. Most of the fruits are either harvested at a stage where they are under-ripe or overripe. Whereas, maturity at harvest is the most important factor that determines storage life and final quality.

Ordinarily, farmers, in view of emerging modernisation, deploy science and technology to determine the best time to harvest fruits for optimal condition, but modern farming methods are hardly applied by most Nigerian farmers, the bulk of whom are uneducated or not privy to global best practices.

Apart from this, the flower industry is rarely given due attention in Nigeria. For instance, Nigeria’s horticulture exports amounted to 0.01% of the total exports from the country in 2019. Meanwhile, the floral world market is worth billions of dollars and is dominated by Netherland, Ecuador, and Colombia. These are the top three exporting countries of flowers. Kenya comes in the fourth position with a whopping $709,402,000 from flower bouquets exports.

Findings revealed that before now, in anticipation of the yearly St. Valentine’s Day celebration, an estimated one million roses were exported from Nigeria to other countries with a total of $1m accruing to farmers and exporters.

Presently, Nigeria relies solely on the importation of the commodity from Kenya, Ethiopia and other countries, losing several million in foreign exchange. In Jos alone, the number of gardens in the city abound. There is a flower garden in the Lamingo area of Jos, called Majesty Garden. It has the Michaelmas daisies, chrysanthemum, dahlia, gladioli, helichrysum, scarlet, orange, pale yellow, coral and pink roses. Although these flower gardens are finding a growing market in Nigeria, it has been a constant struggle.

Needlessly, Africa accounts for the bulk of roses exported to the UK, Australia, China, Netherlands and others. Reports have it that the continent accounts for 85 per cent of roses sold in the Netherlands, with Kenya and Ethiopia as the main suppliers.

Kenya as earlier mentioned is one of the world’s biggest exporters of roses. The flower industry has a significant impact on Kenya’s earnings. According to Statista, Kenya’s floral export value, though fluctuated last year, peaked at 12.6 KSh (116.5 million U.S. dollars) in January 2021.

Kenya Flower Council (KFC) had equally opined that flower farms in Kenya employed more than 100,000 people and “we’re on track to expand greatly over the next five years”. The country, which is adjudged the fourth largest exporter of cut flowers in the world, accounts for more than half of all roses in the world.

Some of the factors responsible for Kenya’s number one position as a rose-growing country on the continent, according to industry experts, include low wages, favourable weather conditions and good infrastructural facilities.

Although there are no true desserts in Nigeria, the northern part of the country lies in a region called the Sahel which is a 3125-mile long savannah. Some countries are putting such horizons to good use. For instance, the sweetest oranges also known as Jaffa oranges are grown in the desert in Israel.

Saudi Arabia equally has the largest dairy farm in the world and it is located in the desert. It is important to note that the farm which is popularly known as Al-Safi Dairy Farm was conceived by way of diversifying the economy.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Al-Safi is twice as large as the largest American dairy farm and houses 37,000 cows that produce more than 58 million gallons of milk a year. Entirely self-sufficient and operational year-round, the milking parlours, processing and packaging plants, and distribution system are all on-site, and the farm grows enough fodder to feed all of its cows. To protect the cattle from the summer heat, pens are equipped with air-droplet cooling fans and special awnings.

Read Also: Presidential Fertiliser Initiative: Boom in Agriculture Set to Return

For Nigeria, the discovery of oil in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, in 1956 was both the sweetener and the killer. It has been the country’s greatest distraction to the boundless opportunities in other areas. Although the present administration has been making persistent efforts to diversify the economy, while giving particular attention to agriculture, crude oil has remained Nigeria’s biggest export as it accounts for about 90% of export earnings and over 70% of total government revenues.

Godwin Obaseki had also pointed out in his tirades on money printing that “The current price of crude oil is only a mirage. The major oil companies that are the ones producing are no longer investing much in oil. Shell is pulling out of Nigeria and Chevron is now one of the world’s largest investors in alternative fuel, so in another year or so, where will we find this money that we go to share in Abuja?”

In addition, Nigeria’s total exported goods represent 3.1% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($1.069 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 3.1% for exports to overall GDP per PPP in 2020 compares to 4.4% for 2019. This suggests a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on the international markets for Nigeria’s total economic performance.

All of these, therefore, reaffirm the expediency of building on our exporting capacity by filling the lacuna, particularly in some of the areas discussed. This is in view of the fact that export boosts the growth of developing countries through the multiplier effects that the income earned from exports has on the economy. Hopefully, the drive for self-sufficiency in food production by Lagos State will eventually expand into servicing the international market for foreign exchange.

Categories: Economy, Features

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