Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have emphasised the need for research development to improve the agricultural sector.
According to the Group Executive Director, Elephant Group, Mr. Akin Ogunbiyi, since the the focal point of the current administration was to boost agriculture to diversify the economy, there is an urgent need to adopt technology and research in identifying products in which the country has comparative advantage.
Ogunbiyi, in a recent interview, advised the the nation to look at research development in the sector and boost agriculture extension programmes.
Also, the President, Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Dr. Abdul Bello, in an interview with our correspondent, emphasised the need for research in the sector, lamenting that Nigeria had continued to record poor crop yields, while there were soil testing laboratories lying waste.
He also stressed the need for the sector to embrace technology, adding, “We must learn to work with Information and Communications Technology. Rwanda has adopted ICT in every sector of its economy and everything in that country is currently working. Nigeria should do the same.”
Bello made a case for the decentralisation of the agriculture ministry, adding that little could be achieved by concentrating everything at the centre.
The Chairman, Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria, Mr. Tunji Owoeye, on his part, decried the effect of policy inconsistency on the development of large-scale farming and backward integration.
He urged the government to encourage large-scale farming through consistent and stable policies, adding that Nigeria had become one of the largest producers of cassava today because of past government policies that encouraged cultivation of cassava.
“If Nigeria can be the largest producer of cassava in the world, with the right political will and consistent policies, we can also be the largest producers of other commodities including rice,” he said.
He advised that government policies targeted at the growth of agriculture such as the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending should be maintained.
He also said government should increase access to credit for the value-chain operators, improve the capacity of NISRAL to take on insurance and risks more to support the teeming value-chain operators across all the products.
To make Nigeria succeed as a net producer and exporter of rice, Owoeye suggested that the 10 rice mills approved by the Federal Executive Council of the previous administration should be made to come on stream.
“If we put those 10 on stream, with the capacity of 35,000 metric tonnes per mill, that is about 350,000 metric tonnes added to the nation’s paddy processing. This would encourage our farmers, create employment and bring down pressure on the foreign exchange,” he said.
He added that agribusiness must be technologically driven as it is done in the western world.