His Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, GCFR
At the Inauguration of the Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council
Abuja. Monday, 14th May 2012
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the inauguration of theAgricultural Transformation Implementation Council.
It is an established fact that agriculture, which is the most important sector of Nigeria’s economy in terms of contribution to the GDP (44%) and employment (70%), has performed poorly over the years due to the neglect of the sector since the discovery of oil.
In the 1960s, Nigeria was the largest producer and exporter of groundnut and palm oil; the second largest exporter of cocoa;
and the largest exporter of cotton in West Africa. The neglect of the agricultural sector has led to Nigeria losing market shares in these commodities to other countries.
Whereas the country has huge agricultural potential, with 84 million hectares (ha) of arable land, Nigeria today is one of the largest importers of food in the world, spending over $10 billion annually importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish. This poses several challenges for us as a nation.
First, we are dependent on food supply from other countries, which makes us vulnerable. As we learnt from the global food crisis, volatility in global food supply and prices can negatively affect consumers in importing countries. Nigeria will have its food security undermined unless it becomes self-sufficient in food production.
We must unlock the huge potential of the sector and strive to regain our lost glory in agriculture.
Second, we need to diversify the economy away from sole reliance on oil. This will secure our economy and reduce foreign exchange volatility. By focusing on agriculture, Nigeria will be able to diversify its economy, reduce foreign exchange spent on food imports, and instead, earn valuable foreign exchange from exports of agricultural produce.
Our Administration’s Agricultural Agenda sets a target of adding an additional 20 million metric tons of food into the domestic food supply by 2015. It also plans to create 3.5 million jobs, both farm and non-farm, over the next five years. Our goal is very clear: to turn Nigeria away from being a net food importing country to become a self-sufficient and food exporting country.
To achieve this and transform the sector, we have stopped taking agriculture as a development program. Agriculture is now being treated as a business. State governments are working closely with the Federal Government to take advantage of the agricultural transformation agenda. Every State has comparative advantage in the agricultural sector which it can leverage on, and engage thousands of our youth to create a new generation of agricultural entrepreneurs for Nigeria.
Several reforms have been implemented in the agricultural sector in the past few months. These include:
- · Reform of the fertilizer sector to make it more transparent and targeted at farmers. The Federal Government is no longer in the business of buying and distributing fertilizers and seeds; we no longer award fertilizer and seed contracts. These are all being done now by the private sector.
- · Government has launched the electronic wallet system to use mobile phones to reach farmers with subsidized inputs.
- · We are putting in place new marketing institutions to coordinate agricultural markets to assure good prices and secured markets for our farmers.
- · We have also changed the way we finance agriculture, with the launch of the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) facility by the Central Bank, working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. NIRSAL will leverage 450 Billion Naira of new financing from banks into the agriculture sector.
- · The Federal Government is already implementing nation-wide activities with State Governments to improve the value chains for our crops, especially rice, cassava, maize, soybeans, sorghum, cotton, cocoa, oil-palm, fisheries and livestock.
- · We are also investing in completing several dams and irrigation infrastructure to allow farmers to take advantage of double cropping and diversification into high value horticultural crops.
But all of these initiatives will not be enough to transform the sector, unless we expand investment in road infrastructure and power to reduce the cost of doing business; expand markets for agricultural produce; and enhance competitiveness of our agriculture.
Government is determined to end the era of food imports. We must eat what we produce, and add value to production, to create markets for our farmers. To underscore this, last month I launched bread and confectionaries made with 20-30% cassava flour with the ultimate goal of increasing it to 40%.
It is in order to facilitate the actualization of our vision for the agricultural sector, that I have set up the Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council. The Council, which I will personally Chair, will provide oversight for the overall agricultural transformation agenda of our Administration. It will consist of the following sub-groups:
- · Agricultural Value Chains Group: this will focus on increasing the productivity, value addition and linkage to markets for all priority agricultural commodities.
- · Agricultural Infrastructure Group: this will include the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development, Water Resources, Works, Aviation, Power and Transport working together to stimulate private sector investments through increased provision of public goods for strategic value chains.
- · Agricultural Finance and Investment Group: this will focus on developing conducive environments to stimulate private sector investments along strategic commodity value chains. It will also focus on leveraging commercial bank financing into agriculture at affordable rates.
These groups will each be tasked with the development and implementation of coordinated interventions to rapidly grow the agricultural sector and turn Nigeria away from being a food- import-dependent economy, to a self-sufficient and food-export-economy.
I am hearing unpleasant stories of some companies working to frustrate our agricultural transformation agenda. Let me state in very clear terms that the Federal Government will deal decisively in such situations.
Nigerian agriculture is heading in the right direction. There is still much to do, hence the need for all stakeholders to come together and engender the needed synergy to unlock and unleash the huge potential of the sector. I thank all the members of the Council for accepting to serve our nation in this onerous capacity.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it is now my pleasure to formally inaugurate the Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council.