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Nigeria’s Agribusiness: The Road Ahead

 6 min read / 

Nigeria once had a booming agricultural industry. At one point, great groundnut pyramids were seen as a symbol for the country’s flourishing agrarian economy. This was until the discovery of oil in 1956, which heralded the death of Nigeria’s agricultural industry. As the nation became a key global hydrocarbons producer, agriculture took the back seat.

Today, the falling price of oil (oil revenue provides 90 percent of Nigeria’s foreign income and two-thirds of government revenue) is the cause of the recent economic hardship in the country. Unfortunately, Nigeria wasted the times of oil booms and excess crude revenue by failing to invest excesses properly. It mismanaged its crude account to the point of worldwide recognition and only seeded a sovereign wealth fund in 2011.

Although Nigeria is now out of its recession, recent financial difficulties have brought about calls for economic diversification. The nation aspires to develop its manufacturing, tourism, and agricultural industry in other to propel itself to economic stability and great wealth. There is the hope that agriculture leads the way and that Nigeria attains a large share of the $1trn dollar estimate for the African agricultural industry by 2030. For many Nigerians who are nostalgic of the nation’s past agricultural wealth, if these goals are attained, they may come to be proud of the agricultural industry.

The Contribution of Agriculture

To revive agricultural wealth, the nation has set goals and enacted a number of changes. For example, the government has begun implementing an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP). The plan seeks to boost the agriculture industry by developing the country’s transport network, among other things. The growth plan includes an investment of $41bn towards rail expansion and as recently implemented, a large-scale fertilizer production expansion.

The Magic Wand

In the hope of helping Nigerians deliver this magic wand of change, there has been an inspiring number of technological and innovative changes brought about by agripreneurs arising from within the country. These entrepreneurs aspire to tackle basic problems in the Nation’s agriculture industry by using technology and other innovative measures to support agriculture at every stage.

In Nigeria today, farmers have access to credit and investors through FarmCrowdy, which gives middle-class Nigerians an opportunity to fund local farmers for a share of the profit. During crop cultivation and land-use planning, to help increase productivity for large-scale farmers, precision agriculture technology has been promoted in Nigeria by a company called Zenvus.

Post-harvest, farmers have access to buyers through Releaf, an agri-tech startup aimed at tackling the difficulty that producers face in obtaining buyers of their products by connecting producers to consumers through an online platform. Demand for agricultural products is also fostered by the Nigerian-born food company, ReelFruit, which has participated in upscaling demand and production of agricultural products in Nigeria.

Slowly, it seems as though everything is falling into place for Nigerian farmers with the work that these agripreneurs are doing.

The Challenges

Nigeria is a positive prospect for impressive agricultural development, but the nation can still be described as being short of its goal for various reasons.

Firstly, most of the solutions brought by these inspiring agripreneurs require technological adoption in Nigeria’s agricultural industry. Historically, technological adoption in Nigeria’s agricultural industry has been slow – but rising. While the government has, in the past, sought to increase the adoption of tech in the industry through a variety of measures, such as delivering fertilizers through eWallet systems and enacting a growth enhancement program, there is still a long way to go.

Secondly, agripreneurs, investors and small-holder farmers will still need to battle with Nigeria’s lack of electricity and its implications for production costs and food storage. One can assume that promises, such as pot-in-pot technology to help increase the storage rate, will not be applicable in large-scale farming. A failure to store agricultural products effectively will lead to waste, which will only bring about lost revenue for Nigeria’s agricultural industry.

Additionally, Nigeria has in past years seen increased clashes between its herdsmen and farmers. In many cases, these clashes have led to fatalities. If such problems persist, one can expect that the nation will continue to lose revenue due to destroyed farming communities. These clashes will also exacerbate low farm productivity and reduce guaranteed output.

Finally, while the nation has laudably increased its output in sugar, cassava and cashew in the past years, it still remains yet to exploit exportation of a variety of its products to a full level. One reason has been Nigeria’s failure to meet health standards required for the import of its products. For example, in 2015, Nigeria failed to meet health standards for the exportation of beans to the EU, and so shut itself from 28 potential markets within the EU. The beans were described as having contained an unauthorised level of pesticide. In 2016, 24 Nigerian exports were rejected for failures to meet EU health tests.

If things continue in this manner, Nigeria will continue to lose huge amounts of potential export revenue by shutting itself from the markets. This problem requires the Nigerian government to greatly involve its regulatory bodies, such as NAFDAC, in educating and assisting farmers and food producers. This is so that the necessary appeal can be added to Nigerian products. This would also ensure that the nation attains laudable health standards and quality control.

Conclusion

The years running up to 2030 provide Nigeria with a range of opportunities to develop its agricultural sector. It is commonly said that in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity. As the oil price chaos looms continually for Nigeria, there comes an opportunity to move from a mono-economy to a diverse economy. Agriculture is just one of the promising ways for Nigeria to do that.

Each new day, it continues to seem as though the elements are in place for Nigeria to move out from its recent economic disaster to get back on track to being Africa’s economic leader and hopefully become the first $1trn economy in Africa. However, the achievement of this goal is down to hard work from every Nigerian: from the nation’s leaders, farmers and food-quality regulators, to leading individuals in the private and public sectors.

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