Agriculture and the Economic diversification Narrative in Nigeria

Nature favors Nigeria with rich soils, good temperature and evenly distributed rainfall for the ease of Agricultural production right from the very beginning. She is less prone to extreme natural disasters that could threaten lands, crops and livestock except for recent trends including and not limited to desertification, erratic rainfall all caused by climate change.

The journey of Nigeria can be said to be founded on the solid rock of food production, this is because Agriculture has been a major source of livelihood and a major occupation serving 75% of the entire population. The first Nigerians produced all kinds of crops including Food and Cash crops, and by the trade by barter system, they traded their cash crops across the Atlantic region.

As time went on there was a need for advancements from the pre-colonial and the colonial era and in the post-colonial era, policies were formulated to promote export-led national revenue generation with crops like Groundnut, cocoa and oil palm leading the pack.

Some of the Agricultural policies and programmes designed to boost food production includes the Accelerated Food Production Programme which was initiated in 1974; followed by World Bank-assisted Agricultural Development Projects (ADP) in the mid-1970s; alongside River Basin Development Authority Schemes, Operation Feed the Nation (OFN) facilitated by General Obasanjo in 1976 and the Green Revolution in 1980.
Agriculture around this time was very instrumental to the nation’s GDP contributing around 65% to the GDP which went to an all-time low of 25% upon oil boom. It is however safe to say that Nigeria has always been on the frontline of Agricultural development but since the oil boom, this breakthrough has fizzled and the country is trying so hard to scramble its way to the top to no avail.

However, Agriculture in Nigeria accounts for around one – third of the country’s GDP and Nigeria’s major crops include palm oil, peanut oil, rubber, and cotton. These products are exported and are also sold domestically. Other agricultural products include sorghum, millet, maize (corn), yams and cassava. All of these are formerly used as subsistence foods by farmers but are now widely sold for cash.

It is no longer news that Nigeria is not a major exporter of cocoa, groundnuts (peanuts), rubber, and palm oil. The Cocoa production is stagnant at 180,000 tons (approx.) annually which used to be 300,000 tons (approx.) some 25 years ago. There has been a huge decline in groundnut and palm oil production even in poultry production, it has reduced from 40 million birds annually to about 18 million even the land tenure system of Nigeria does not encourage the long-term investment in technology or modern production methods.

Fast forward to now, it is evident that the Nigerian economy is largely a petroleum based economy and this hasn’t always been the case. Nigeria has aced cash crop production globally including Cassava, Palm Oil, and Groundnut production as the largest producer and majority of our export earnings in previous years has come from these products. It is very saddening to realize that the economy of Nigeria shows overdependence on the capital-intensive oil sector, which provides the 28% of GDP, 95% of foreign exchange earnings and about 65% of government revenues.

The agricultural sector which was previously the most productive sector of the economy is now largely subsistent and against the edge of being a large net exporter of food, it now imports most of its food products.

Very recently, the oil windfalls that insulated Nigeria’s lopsided economic arrangement fell and the negative effects were largely felt across the board, this was due to the rather sharp decline in crude oil prices since the last quarter of 2014.

This can only be explained by the poor and delusional leaders who took over the realms and drifted from the foundation of Nigeria’s creation and due to the rather greedy nature of these leaders, they wittingly led us to a mono-product petroleum based economy and thus the conversation moved from sustaining a multifaceted economy to diversifying the current economy because our current economic model is too vulnerable and unsustainable, and it has done nothing but lead us to a deep recession in the second quarter of 2016. The economy which has contracted massively due to declining oil prices, sabotage of oil export terminals in the Niger Delta negatively impacting on government revenue and export earnings.

Concomitantly, foreign exchange reserves fell by 8.83% from US$28.3 billion in December 2015 to US$25.8 billion in December 2016. The negative outcome that this has further led us into since the economic recession is the massive rise in unemployment, poverty and inflation. Inflation rose from 9.5% in 2015 to 18.5% by the first quarter of 2017.

If the information on Nigeria’s growth rate is anything to go by, Nigeria’s population will reach 399 million by 2050, and obviously, demands for job will increase, a rather sad reality of the mono product economy.

Oil is the reason we ever had a reason to think diversification but it is better late than never that we had a rethink on our economic framework and foster the diversification process of our petroleum based economy to a multifaceted economy with Agriculture leading the pack towards building a food secure Nigeria.

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