Nigeria: Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020
Building on the Successes of the ATA, Closing Key Gaps
Starting in 2010-2011, the Government of Nigeria, after years of benign neglect, began to reform the agriculture sector. To refocus the sector, the Government implemented a new strategy (the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, ATA) built on the principle that agriculture is a business and therefore policy should be about supporting it. The main priority of policy was to “restart the clock” and reintroduce the Nigerian economy to sustainable agriculture centered on business-like attitude driven by the private sector. That strategy was in place from 2011-2015.
The ATA was a good platform to re-engage key stakeholders in Nigerian agriculture to shift focus towards how a self-sustaining agribusiness focused economy could be built. The ATA focused on how to make Nigeria’s agriculture more productive, efficient and effective. It set a target of creating 3.5 million jobs by 2015; generating foreign exchange, and reducing spending on food imports. Among its key achievements was a restructuring of the federal fertilizer procurement system.
ATA however also faced challenges and did not deliver on all the targets identified. For example, Nigeria still imports about $3 to $5 billion worth of food annually, especially wheat, rice, fish and sundry items, including fresh fruits. As a result, Nigeria is not food secure. Wastage levels remain high in production areas, reducing supply of feedstock to processing factories, requiring them to keep importing supplies. The net effect is limited job growth across the agricultural value chain from input production to market systems, and continued use of limited foreign currency earnings to import vast quantities of food.
On balance, the ATA was an important first step towards rediscovering agriculture. As a result, many companies, individuals and donors are now keen to invest in Nigerian agriculture once again. Agriculture is viewed as a business that can provide a reasonable basis for further wealth and job growth in Nigeria.
With that in mind, the policy and strategic focus is now on how to build on the initial progress made, and transition Nigeria to a new plane In terms of agribusiness performance. That will be the focus of the proposed new policy regime. That new policy’s primary focus will be on closing the demand – supply gaps between crop and livestock production. Gap closing will also include tackling related input, financing, storage, transport and market access issues present in key value chains.
Nigeria is facing two key gaps in agriculture today: an inability to meet domestic food requirements, and an inability to export at quality levels required for market success. The former problem is a productivity challenge driven by an input system and farming model that is largely inefficient. As a result, an aging population of farmers do not have enough seeds, fertilizers, irrigation, crop protection and related support to be successful. The latter challenge is driven by an equally inefficient system for setting and enforcing food quality standards, as well as poor knowledge of target markets. Insufficient food testing facilities, a weak inspectorate system in FMARD, and poor coordination among relevant federal agencies serve to compound early stage problems such as poor knowledge of permissible contaminant levels.
Putting Nigeria’s agriculture sector on a path to growth will require actions to solve these two gaps: produce enough fresh, high quality foods for the Nigerian market; and serve the export market successfully and earn foreign exchange. The new federal Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) is a strategy that focuses on solving the core issues at the heart of limited food production and delivery of quality standards. As productivity improves domestically and standards are raised for all Nigerian food production, export markets will also benefit impacting positively on Nigeria’s balance of payments. Given limited resources and the importance of delivering sustainable results, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMARD) in consultation with partners has identified an initial pool of crops and related activities that will be Nigeria’s path to tackling the aforementioned gaps.
First, FMARD will prioritize improving productivity into a number of domestically focused crops and activities. These are rice, wheat, maize, fish (aquaculture), dairy milk, soya beans, poultry, horticulture (fruits and vegetables), and sugar. Nigeria believes that the gap can be closed by partnering closely with private investors across farmer groups and companies to develop end to end value chain solutions. These chains will receive facilitated government support as they make deep commitments to engaging a new generation of farmers, improving supply of specialized fertilizers and protection chemicals, as well as wider scale use of high yielding seeds. In addition, Nigeria expects to work with investors to sharply improve the distribution system for fresh foods so as to reduce time to table, reduce post-harvest losses, and overall improve nutritional outcomes e.g. lowering of diabetic risk, stunting risk, etc.
Second, FMARD will prioritize for export markets the production of the following crops and activities: cowpeas, cocoa, cashew, cassava (starch, chips and ethanol), ginger, sesame, oil palm, yams, horticulture (fruits and vegetables), beef and cotton. FMARD will also work with a network of investors, farmers, processors and other stakeholders to deepen the supporting infrastructure to ensure that quality standards are defined and maintained across the value chain. That will involve adding more testing laboratories, improving traceability of crops, disseminating intelligence on export markets and consumer preferences, etc. Our goal is to build a high quality brand for Nigerian foods based on rigorous data and processes that protect food safety for both domestic and export market consumers.
To ensure that the strategy is executed as intended, FMARD is working closely with states and other federal MDAs e.g. Power, Transportation and Trade. FMARD will also evolve itself to become a more focused policy maker and regulator to ensure accountability for results. FMARD will use its convening and related powers to ensure that the enabling system is in place to support agribusiness. From investments in rural roads to reduce transport time to improved security of farming communities to reduce incidence of criminality to reduction in intra-state taxes and levies, FMARD will intensify oversight. That oversight will ensure that farmers and investors are working in a market that is safe, competitive, and capable of enabling wealth creation in the coming years and decades.
Finally, FMARD will periodically publish metrics to track performance against the strategy e.g. tonnage of rice paddy produced, or yields/milking cow. The systems to repeatedly collect accurate data and integrate these into policy making, as well as investor planning will be refined over the next few months as part of this next wave of reform. We anticipate that if successful, key gaps such as Nigeria’s continued imports of rice will disappear, while Nigerian produce e.g. beans and cocoa will once again become a quality benchmark across the globe. Reaching that point will require significant investments in people, processes and systems. Nigeria is committed to taking the necessary stepsin order to move Nigerian agriculture from “a business” to a commercial ecosystem that can produce the capabilities necessary to create sustainable jobs and wealth.