By Favour Nnabugwu
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, has said the the country spends a total of $2 billion annually to import agricultural products into the country.
Amaechi disclosed this to journalists during an inspection tour from Rigasa rail station in Kaduna to Idu Station in Abuja last Friday.
Even as the world’s 7th largest population in the world at a base line of 170million, the Minister said agriculture is an exceptionally important element of Nigeria’s economy.
Amaechi went to say that the large import of food products include wheat, rice, flour, fish, tomato paste, eggs, textile and sugar.
The Minister however, stressed the need to diversify the mono-cultural tendencies of the Nigerian economy by developing other sectors of the economy especially agriculture.
“Major agricultural imports are wheat, rice and sugar. Most agricultural imports come from the US and the EU. The country’s main agricultural exports are cocoa beans, rubber, sesame seeds and cocoa butter. Key agricultural export destinations are the UK, the US, Canada, France and Germany”
“We were known to be exporters of cocoa beans, gum Arabic, groundnuts, cotton, palm oil and many other agricultural commodities, but now, we import most of the agricultural commodities that we can produce because of the neglect of the sector.
“About 30 percent of live animals slaughtered in Nigeria are imported from neighbouring countries. Like other subsectors, livestock industry development is constrained by low productive breeds, inadequate access to feeds and grazing lands, frequent farmer – pastoralist conflicts, lack of processing facilities and low value addition and low technical inputs in the management of the animals, including diseases.”
However, industry watchers said the country could increase its agricultural sector output to $227 billion by 2030, thus, raising the annual growth rate to 4.2 per cent.
But achieving the feat would require a four-pronged approach which boosting yields, shifting more production into high value crops, reducing post-harvest and distribution losses, and increasing scale production. The biggest opportunity in agriculture is improving crop yields, which accounts for 39 per cent of the upside potential.