By Adelola Amihere
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector at the recently concluded Agriculture Correspondents Association of Nigeria (ACAN) Agriculture Summit, have emphasized the need for the government and the private sector to invest more in agriculture in order to develop the sector, create jobs, and end hunger by 2030.
The summit which came as a result of the government’s effort in diversifying the economy from oil to non-oil production and exportation, and the need to create jobs, feed the populace through the empowerment of small holder farmers who constitute of 70 per cent of farmers population.
In his address, the Chairman of ACAN, Mr John Oba said “it will be a thing of excitement to rural farmers if soil testing is made affordable and accessible to smallholder farmers. So, also access to improved seeds made available to smallholder farmers”.
He said ACAN is committed to engaging smallholder farmers on best agricultural practices, stressing that “we believe to achieve the dream of ending hunger, all hands must be on deck. Beyond reporting, we will engage farmers and attempt to address the information gap. Moreover, farmers should have access to subsidized farm equipment by government for improved food production.
The Director General of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Dr Anallo Akpa said poultry alone contributes 25 per cent of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product of the Nigerian economy.
“The poultry industry is very strategic to agricultural development of this country, most people say that poultry is the most active commodity in the agricultural sub-sector of this country. The poultry industry alone contributes 25 per cent of the agricultural Gross Domestic Product of the economy.
“In the last 12 years, we have been able to achieve so much. As we are aware, the value chain of poultry production does not stop at the poultry alone, it goes into the crop areas, because almost 70 to 75 per cent of the cost of production of poultry is grains, like maize and soybean.
“So, we are not only poultry producers, we are also people involved in the entire value chain of the strategic sectors of the agricultural value chain, and so far we have been able to do so much, we have a lot of programmers coming on”, he said.
The Registrar of Nigerian Institute of Soil Science, Professor Victor Chude, warned that Nigeria’s quest for food security would remain a mirage, unless the present application of fertilizer to crops is changed.
Chude, while speaking at the ACAN Agriculture Summit lamented that there has been low crop yields and productivity as a result of the use of conventional, blanket fertilizer which more often than not, is NPK 15:15: 15 fertilizer.
He explained that NPK fertilizer is not suitable for all soils, adding that the present trend where the same brand fertilizer is supplied to farmers was counter-productive.
Chude, who was the immediate past President of Soil Science Society of Nigeria, therefore, called on the relevant government institutions to carry out soil testing and mapping before fertilizers are given to farmers for planting.
According to him, “Soil is the cradle of civilisation. It supports life and soil is life. Any nation that refuses to manage soil well will definitely go underground with time. We need a lot of resources to make soil productive.
“You notice that for the past four decades, the yield of crops has not appreciated so much. No wonder, our farmers have remained in poverty. This is because our soil has not been taken care of. It is not true that NPK 15:15:15 fertilizer is good for all crops. It is not also true that NPK: 20:10:10 can be used anywhere in this country.”
The Country Coordinator of Open Forum on Agriculture Biotechnology (OFAB), Dr Rose Gidado said achieving full diversification of the economy to agriculture may not be feasible if modern agriculture technologies like biotechnology is not adopted.
According to her “when we are talking about the diversification of the economy, of course it’s very important to move away from mono economy to poly economy and I know that agriculture is at the topmost of Mr President agenda.
In his remarks, the Coordinator of Zero Hunger Commodity Farmers Association, Mr Tunde Arosanyin, “for Nigeria to export yam, we must do value addition, it is much more economical profitable for Nigeria nation to export yam in form of food grade yam flour or chips, rather than exporting the tuber, it is also important to fortify the value chain to convert some of the fruits that we have rather than taking concentrates”.
He called on the government to pay attention to the value chain, stressing that “when the value chain is given necessary attention, then definitely, the farmers will be better of, then our economy that we are planning to shift from a mono economy can actually be realistic. To do this job, I see ACAN as a bridge between the farmers and policy makers”
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, represented by a Director in the Ministry, Engr Owolabi Olusegun, lamented the continued hunger, despite efforts by various governments in the agricultural sector
“There is the scourge of poverty in the world which is unacceptable, despite efforts to reduce global poverty, and nearly 50 per cent of people in the world still live below poverty line.