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Good governance needed for Agric development – Eboh

By JIMOH BABATUNDE WITH AGENCY REPORT
Absence of good governance has been described as the bane of agricultural development in Nigeria. Professor Eric Eboh who made this assertion added that unless government takes pragmatic steps towards addressing it, food insecurity and other associated vices may continue to bedevil the country.

Professor Eric Eboh when delivering the 56th inaugural lecture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) recently noted that productivity growth is the key for sustainable agricultural growth Eboh, who is also a member of Farm Management Association of Nigeria (FMAN)and the Executive Director of African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE),disclosed that recent study found that 5.6% annual growth in agricultural total factor productivity is required to achieve 9.5% growth in agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He said evidence shows that land expansion accounts for about 60% of agricultural growth; only 40% of growth is attributed to productivity increase. “”Also, while average annual agricultural growth is about 7% over the period 2002-2006, annual yield increases for most crops were less than 1%. The indication that output growth was accounted for more by expansion in area cultivated than by productivity improvements is reinforced by the significant correlation between output and area harvested compared to the correlation between output and yield, he averred””

The Professor of Agriculture Economics lamented that the sector was the main financier of colonial and post-colonial regional and national development in Nigeria, adding that despite this credential, the agricultural sector has continued to suffer continuing neglect which began with the discovery of crude oil and the oil boom.

He said, “These appalling indicators show that agriculture sector spending has been inconsistent with agriculture sector contribution to (and status in) the national economy. Besides, the evidence shows that public sector expenditure on the agricultural sector has been fraught with high degree of volatility or fluctuations from year to year.

There are also a huge financing gap in Nigerian agriculture. Projected federal government funding for agriculture and food security over a four-year period 2008-2011 is about N935 billion. But, total federal budget for agriculture and water resources in 2008 was less than N120 billion, as against the projected funding needs of about N319 billion for 2008”.

Commenting on how policy inconsistency has affected the sector, Eboh said the policy environment is far from conducive, saying there is lack of follow-through in policies and programmes. He disclosed that an example is the Presidential Initiatives on some commodities, saying the policy on 10% inclusion of cassava flour in bread is almost dead, and was never even implemented.

“”Like in other sectors, there is high turnover of administrative and policy regimes. The situation hampers institutional memory and policy learning by policymakers and technocrats. In the last 10 years alone, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture has changed 7 times. Even the institutional framework for agricultural sector has not been spared.

There have been frequent changes of the institutional framework such that we have had Ministry of Agriculture and Rural
Development, Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources at different times””.

“”Policy responses are not sufficiently holistic and integrated. Sometimes, policies do not yield the desired results either because they are not implementable (because of poor design) or they are poorly implemented (because of lack of political will, inadequate executive capacity and/or corruption).

Take the case of 30% duty on imported rice, an instrument aimed at promoting local rice production. The fact that importers can bring in rice through the Cotonou port at 5% import duty encourages rampant smuggling, which the Customs Agency is not adequately equipped to cope with. In effect, the intentions of the 30% import duty on rice are not being realised”, he lamented.


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