ByÂ Â Daniel Gumm
STAKEHOLDERS andÂ participants, who attended the just-concluded the International Agricultural Business Summit, organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) in collaboration with the Kwara State Government and AgroNigeria, which held Ilorin have endorsed the integration of the West African market as a critical factor in agricultural development and commodities trading.
The summit, with the theme: “Agribusiness Investment: Destination West Africa; with sub-themes on Operating Environment in West African Agribusiness, Policy and Strategy for Agribusiness Growth and Finance Technology and Markets,” had a wide range of participants from both the public and private sector, practising farmers from over 15 states of Nigeria and international participants from Ghana, Italy and Uganda.
There was a wide range of exhibition of agricultural products and services and a visit to the New Nigerian Commercial Farms Shonga, which involves the development of an integrated farming community comprising 13 farming families, all being managed by specialised farmers from Zimbabwe.
Summit participants were pleased with the level of development in four years at the New Nigerian Commercial Farms Shonga and advocated for replication in all the senatorial districts in Nigeria.
The farms have been duly incorporated as Shonga Farms Holding Limited, as a special purpose vehicle to mobilise investments and funds for the projects. As part of this process, a shareholding of 75.38% was advertised through a strategic sales offer; leaving for the Kwara State Government a shareholding of 24.64%.
Similarly, the summit called on all countries of the sub-region to facilitate the implementation of the ECOWAS protocols for movement of goods and services as well as appreciated the windows of opportunity for rapid agricultural development and trade by the administration of the Governor of Kwara State,Â Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki in the following areas:
*The provision of the perishable cargo terminal to facilitate both local and international trade, especially for the entire middle belt agricultural trade;
*Ease of access to large expanse of land for commercial agricultural within 60 days of request from Kwara State Government and other core investors outside the state;
*Provision of rural finance and infrastructure for rapid development of the agric sector; and,
*Deliberate effort and commitment at replacing ageing farmersâ€™ population with educated young farmers.
These resolutions were alsoÂ agreed upon by the participants:
*That food is an instrument of security (food security), a strategic instrument of diplomacy and a rigid instrument of fundamental human rights. Therefore governmentâ€™s attitude should change from paying lip service to actual implementation of solutions in order to enhance food sufficiency and security;
*The urgent request for legislation against government policy inconsistency in the agric sector and the need to involve farmers, commodity traders, processors who are the stakeholders in policy formulation in order to ensure positive impact on the farming population;
*There is a grassroots protest against the present policies on fertilizer procurement, marketing and distribution;
*The private sector and other stakeholders must rise up to monitor and evaluate the implementation of all policies made in the agric sector;
*Agriculture in Nigeria must be promoted from subsistence to commercial level by establishment of clusters in order to encourage full time business to create wealth. Agriculture must also be created to attract young farmers into mechanised agriculture.
Government should motivate and encourage farmers to integrate into farmers cooperative societies which will ease their rapid access to bank loans and support from development partners.
The urgent need to promote organic farming to protect the environment against severe climate changes and human health; and agric mechanisation to increase agric production, productivity, increase in farm cultivation, soil fertility and return on investment in agriculture.
State governments should initiate the establishment of perishable cargo terminals at all airports in Nigeria to enhance internal and external trade in perishable commodities.