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Agro growth offers hope to economic revival

11 March 2016, 21:50Okoro Chinedu

Lagos – The growth in the local agricultural sector over the past year has boosted justification to diversify the Nigerian economy from an over-reliance on oil as well as reducing imports of some commodities.

The sector grew by 3,5 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter of the past year and 3,7 percent year-on-year in 2015.

Crop production, the largest contributor (89,5 percent of agricultural gross domestic), grew by 3,3 year-on-year while livestock and fisheries expanded by 5,6 percent and 5,4 percent respectively in the fourth quarter respectively.

First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) noted the decline in oil receipts has created acute foreign currency scarcity and highlighted the country’s heavy reliance on foreign sourced goods and services.

“This has added urgency to the FGN’s import substitution strategy, which is concentrated on agricultural products,” FBN stated on Friday.

The bank noted there were eight agric-related products on the CBN’s list of imports no longer eligible for foreign currency from official sources.

They include rice, fish, palm oil products, poultry and tomatoes/ tomato paste.

According to FBN estimates, less than 15 percent of domestic foreign currency demand is met at the official window, leaving manufacturers with the choice of going without their inputs or trying to source their foreign currency requirements at a hefty premium on the parallel market.

Also read: FG seeks bank's partnership to broaden economy

“We see a growing trend of companies in the food and beverage industry utilising domestic agricultural inputs where possible.”

A number of initiatives are in place to boost the agricultural sector.

Government plans to partner with the UN World Food Programme to implement its home-grown school feeding programme.

This is set to stimulate the agric sector as local farmers will be responsible for supplying the products used in preparing these meals.

In the fisheries segment, government, in conjunction with the Farmers Development Union and a Dutch agricultural development company, Oxfam Novib, have announced plans to boost commercial fish production.

This programme will focus on small-scale fish farmers and provide them with floating fish feed as well as other technologies.

The macro challenges have intensified the pressure on business to make greater use of domestic raw materials.

FBN said potentially, the sector stood to benefit from the restrictions imposed by the authorities.

“However, the government has to create the appropriate enabling environment. There are vast opportunities in the agribusiness value chain.

On a macro level, it is a major job generator.”

- CAJ News

Tags economy

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