President Goodluck Jonathan has said agriculture is the key to reducing unemployment and poverty in Nigeria, where most of the 140 million inhabitants live on less than $2 a day and spend around 80 percent of their income on food.
Nigeria’s cocoa production will double in the next four years, while wheat and rice imports are set to fall as Africa’s most populous nation strives to be more food self-sufficient, the country’s agriculture minister told Reuters.
Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest cocoa producer, has had stagnant output over recent decades due to poor infrastructure and a focus on its oil business, the mainstay of sub-Saharan Africa’s second-largest economy.
Agriculture Minister, Akinwunmi Adesina, said cocoa production would rise to 500,000 metric tonnes by 2015, from around 250,000 metric tonnes now, aided by improved infrastructure and financing.
“We need to get our farmers the right kind of cocoa seedlings, revamp our plantations and improve the quality of our cocoa that is supplied by our farmers, that means that we must provide them with better fertilizers,” he told Reuters in the capital Abuja.
“We have a programme with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) where we have leveraged from commercial banks 450 billion naira for lending to private sector, to farmers, fertilizer companies, food manufacturers.”
A series of previous agriculture ministries have promised to boost cocoa production above 500,000 metric tonnes but have failed to deliver.
Agriculture contributed around 40 percent of GDP last year and provides around 70 percent of employment, according to the national statistics bureau.
However, the sector has been on the decline since the 1960s and Nigeria remains a net importer of food, while oil exports account for around 95 percent of foreign exchange revenues.
Adesina has pledged to grow more rice, which he says Nigeria spends 356 billion naira a year on importing, and reduce wheat imports by 10 percent, replacing the lost product with cassava as an alternative for flour mill owners.
“We don’t have comparative advantage in wheat production. We are currently spending 635 billion naira importing wheat into this country but yet we have farmers producing cassava.”
“It is very clear that substitution of 10 percent cassava flour for wheat flour is fine for bread and for confectionary and it will create a huge amount of jobs here in Nigeria that alone will mop up around 500,000 metric tonnes of cassava roots in this country and stabilise prices for farmers.”
Flour mill owners would be offered incentives to use cassava, he added. Continue Reading