The 10 products selected by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for special intervention to reduce food importation have fallen short of the target contained in the apex bank’s five-year policy plan (2019-2024).
Agriculture features prominently in the plan as the CBN hopes to consolidate gains made through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to boost production of the 10 products, create over 10 million jobs and improve Nigeria’s annual non-oil exports receipts from $2 billion to $12 billion by 2023.
The products are rice, maize, cassava, cocoa, tomato, cotton, palm oil, poultry, fish, and livestock/dairy.
Despite spending N1.01 trillion under the ABP since its inception to support millions of smallholder farmers with improved seedlings and finance, food imports in Africa’s most populous country have continued to hit a new high yearly.
The value of food imports hit N2 trillion in 2021, up 41 percent when compared to the N1.2 trillion spent in 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics show. The imported food products accounted for 9.44 percent of the country’s total imports for the year.
In 2019, the country imported N959 billion worth of food, accounting for 5.66 percent of total imports. It imported N857.6 billion and N886.8 billion worth of food products in 2018 and 2017 respectively.
In the first quarter of 2022, the country imported N44.3 billion worth of food, representing an increase of 8.39 percent when compared to the corresponding quarter in 2021.
The data show that food imports in Nigeria have been growing at an average of 20 percent since 2019 when the policy plan was launched, an indication that progress in boosting local production of the various products has not reduced imports.
“The data is evidence that we still did not grow enough food and we are left with no option but to import,” AfricanFarmer Mogaji, chief executive officer of X-Ray Consulting Limited, said in response to questions.
Despite recording increases in some of the products, the production growth rate is still far below the country’s population growth rate of 2.5 percent per annum.
Worsening insecurity, supply chain shocks occasioned by the pandemic and worsened by the Russia-Ukraine war as well as changing climate have obstructed food production in the country, thus leading to a spike in prices and raising hunger risk.
No fewer than three million hectares of farmlands for rice, maize, and cassava, among others across the country were impacted by insecurity and extreme weather conditions in 2021.
“We have more local problems causing a surge in food prices than the Russia-Ukraine war. We have lost 60 percent of our food production in the northern region due to insecurity,” said Edobong Akpabio, former head of agribusiness at Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“A lot of farmers do not cultivate in places where they usually grow crops because of the high rate of insecurity,” she said.
The country has been able to increase its non-oil exports since 2018. It earned N2.14 trillion from non-oil exports in 2021, which is 41 percent of the CBN’s target of N5.1 trillion ($ 12 billion) by 2023. The country earned N715.2 billion from non-oil exports in the first quarter of 2022.
Experts say Nigeria can only record success and meet the N5.1 trillion non-oil export target if its agriculture becomes market-oriented through value addition.
According to them, more wealth and employment are generated in value chains that are closer to the consumers, and processing to retailing of any agricultural commodity chain accounts for 80 percent of the entire profits of produce.
The likes of Brazil and Vietnam grew their agriculture through value addition and have become top exporters of various agricultural commodities.
“With the right technology and value addition just like what the likes of Brazil did, then we would be able to drive productivity and generate revenue through agriculture as well as create meaningful jobs,” said Abiodun Olorundenro, operations manager of Aquashoots Nigeria.