Economic Woes – We’re Paying for Neglecting Agriculture, Says Jonathan
President Goodluck Jonathan said abandoning the agricultural sector for oil is making the country to pay a huge price and urge everyone to get involved in reviving the sector.
Speaking yesterday at the 19th Nigeria Economic Summit (NES) jointly organised by the Nigeria Economy Summit Group (NESG), National Planning Commission (NPC) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, President Jonathan said agriculture cannot be separated from land, education, finance, trade and others to diversify the country’s economy.
The summit with the theme: “Growing agriculture as a business to diversify Nigeria’s Economy,” focuses on the agric sector due to the potentials embedded in it.
“We are only using agriculture as a fulcrum to discus other issues of national development. All of them are interwoven and must work together for good result. You cannot talk of agriculture without land, education, finance, market which is trade and others,” he said.
National Planning Minister Dr Shamsudeen Usman said the earlier Nigeria gets it right on agriculture and its efficacy for economic development the better, adding that there are growing opportunities in it and the country must invest there.
He said farmers should support the Federal Government in the implementation of the transformation agenda and should also borrow a leaf from Brazil which implemented her agriculture plan for many decades before it got it right.
NESG Director General Frank Nweke said the group’s choice of agriculture as the theme for the 19th Economic Summit was in pursuit of the food security of the country, adding that going by estimates the country spends about $5-$10 billion on importation of food annually. He estimates that say 60 percent of every dollar earned as a country is spent on food importation. “It undermines not just food security but national security,” Nweke said.
He said Nigeria’s agriculture is undergoing massive restructuring and transformation with focus on growing agricultural business. “The goal is to turn Nigeria into a global agricultural power house.”
A cassava farmer at the plenary session, Mrs Yemisi Iranloye, said the problem facing agriculture in this country is mechanisation. She explained that for a farmer to move from one acre of land to 10 acres or 100 acres he must be able to move into the use of mechanised technology instead of hoes and cutlasses.
She said the financial institutions must also encourage farmers in the aspect of accessing loan and not to subject them to stringent condition on loan.
“Banks should encourage farmers especially those in the rural area and also reduce their interest rate to probably one per cent,” she said.