Economic Recovery: Restructuring Nigeria’s farming industry

“We are a farming nation that imports most of our basic food staples”- President Buhari, on June 14th, wrote in an article titled “The Three changes Nigeria needs” which was published on America Wall Street Journal, WSJ.

Despite the fact that government levies imposed on farmers are soaring and the rate of farm bankruptcies is growing in developed countries, farmers are not willing to relocate to the developing nations where their costs can be much lower. This is striking given that foreign industries in the business of non-farm product and services progressively move into some developing nations where they can save costs and also sell at high prices that gives them room for a high profit margin.

Accountably, numerous foreign owned or affiliated telecommunication, technology, entertainment, chemical, petrochemical, petroleum, civil engineering and other manufacturing organizations have relocated outside of their home countries to many developing part of world, like Africa, due the cost- benefits they tend to get. However, across Africa and Nigeria in particular, it is still quite difficult to find expatriates or foreign organisations that are into the farming.

Notably, the oil and gas industry in Nigeria is a huge employer of foreign resources like funds, labour and other technical support. It goes without denying that both the foreign resources and the foreign oil economy significantly helped Nigeria’s economy to tower increasingly. Oil became too relevant to our economic as the nation became overly dependent on petroleum for its prosperity and survival. In fact, reasons as to why Nigeria is regarded as a mono-product economy is because of the quite important role oil played in the formation and transformation of Nigeria’s economy.

Historically, before the advent of the oil boom in the nation, farming was the principal booster of our economy. Thus, oil took the place of agriculture in the nation as a major shift between oil and farming in our nation dates as far back as the discovery of oil in the Niger-Delta region. However, oil did not only takeaway the resourceful attention of our leaders from farming, it took-out farmlands from the oil communities as the mining activities of the crude oil constituted the degradation and infertility of the communities’ land – particularly the Ogoni community where oil was first found.

Oil spillage and environmental pollution that were as a result of the mining activities of crude grossly depleted the environment, paralyzing both land and water farming activities. Fishing activities which were a major source of income for the community and the indigenes was stalled as the water became unhealthy for both the fish and the fishers. The land was also made unfit for planting and the farmers. Today, we are an oil-rich nation that imports most of our gasoline. Worse off, we are also a farming nation that imports most of our basic food staples.

Commendably, even though series of compensation in cash and in kind have been periodically given to the affected communities which have suffered from environmental degradation for many years, the Ogoniland witnessed the flag-off of the Ogoni clean-up exercise launched by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo today 2nd of June. As if a dejavu, the flag off was launched on the same spot to President Buhari commissioned a fish farm project in Bodo, Ogoni land, 32 years ago. The project was since destroyed as result of oil pollution.

However, the cleaning up of the Ogoniland and other affected communities is not sufficient to restore the significant role farming played in region and nation at large. The restoration of the glory days farming can only be regained via effective structural reforms that are capable of catapulting Nigeria into astonishing economic heights.

Re- structurally, there ought to be an increase in the engagement of foreign organisations or experts that are into farming. Concertedly, they can bring-in their resources, technical support and other forms of assistance to facilitate our farming system. Their engagement will successfully help in growing our farming system like our oil and gas industry was helped by foreigner experts to boom. They will teach us how to practise sustainable farming both in the urban and rural areas in a way that will increase our actual exportation of farm goods and services and also improve the quality of the outcome of our farming practices. Together with the help of our natural fantastic climatic conditions, the integration of international efforts into our farming system will help the nation to maximize her large expanse of agricultural dry- land, water-land and the water bodies in a way that will evidently benefit the economy.

The engagement of the foreign farming organization will also facilitate the involvement of our indigenous young graduates in farming as they will be interested in working in foreign-based farming organizations where o proper structures and world best practices is often adopted and observed to the latter. The involvement of our youth in farming will further enhance the realisation of the dreams of youngest graduates and other young people in the nation. The absorption of young people into the farming Industry will further help in tackling our national employment crises as youth(graduates) can be adequately trained and positioned for the overall growth of the nation’s GDP. In the same light, on the platform of foreign engagement, more and more young graduates will easily see the bright future of the nation’s farming sector as the youths’ sense of gainful employment will be improved.

Pathetically, just like farmlands are typically appraised at rates below their true market value to keep levies affordable for farmers, the farming profession is also appreciated below it’s true value which has made both young and old people to unfairly marginalized the profession. Though this is quite due to the negligence and lack of due diligence by youngest people, it is at the general detriment of our economy. As such, graduates are urged not to marginalize the farming profession for whatever reason that is based on today’s status-quo of farming in our economy. Farming holds the future of our nation and the early we resume the future with our hands, the better.

However, while the profession of farming is increasingly devalued at the detriment of our national growth and development, the devaluation of farming lands may not be as dis-advantageous to our economy. In other words, in order to boost economic activities in the farming sector, farm lands may be undervalued in an effort to make it affordable for farmers to buy or bear other imposed levies. High cost of farmland and operational cost stalls farmland deals and general farming activities. When costs are too onerous, business becomes too tedious or strenuous.

Turning the table around, farmlands may also be optimally valued. It may be advisable to value lands that are being used for farming with a method that is not only based on Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV). That is, adequate consideration should also be given to Potential Agricultural Use Value (PAUV) of the farmland. In other words, farmlands should not only be appraised on the current net income farmers earn from their farms. The appraisal should also be based on the future income the farmers can earn having optimized their farming resources and practices.

The optimum valuation of farmlands will enhance the use of farmlands as collateral and further stimulate the interest of both local and international investors. Also, because the high value of a property indicates its increased feasibility, investors can trust or dare to pump in more money into farming business, having seen or perceived farming businesses to have less risk and high yield. Also, banks can progressively gain inroads into the farming industry and launch fully into the agricultural space.

Generally, farming at the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) or the present incomes of farmers is comparatively low to other booming industries. However, farming holds a high Potential Agricultural Use Value (PAUV) or future income that is even greater than the petroleum industry. Farm incomes are now on the rise due to higher export demand and increased prices of farm produce. That is, current agricultural use value (CAUV) and present the income of farmers is already increasing as the Potential Agricultural Use Value (PAUV) is steadily being realised.

The government must also endeavour to keep imposed levies, like tax, minimal both during the period of boom and burst. Government may grant relief especially when prices of farm produces begin to fall. They also should be modest in their legislative movement towards imposed levies. In an attempt to reduce the prices of imposed levies like farm taxes and other levies, the tax values may be calculated only on current agricultural use value (CAUV) or present the income a farmer which is likely to be low. In corollary, Infrastructures that enhances farming should be put so that cost of operation becomes reduced as high cost squeezes profit margins of almost any business. Thus, the government need to focus on the farming industry in a quite strategic way that will give adequate incentives to farmers.

In conclusion, importantly, we need to restructure the farming sector via the progressive engagement of international and our government support in a way that will enhance our locally grown foods and thrive our export market. Also, we need to restructure the farming sector in a manner that will promote the involvement of young graduates in the farming industry. A good rise in the number of farmers between 25 and 34 years in our farming industry will further create a bright spot in the present economic darkness Nigeria is undergoing.

Farming is quite imperative following the huge fall in oil prices, global warming, and other effluents of globalisation that are increasingly affecting the world, particularly Africa. More so, bearing in mind that even though Africa contributed comparatively low to the growth of global warming, we are at the receiving end of it. As such, in other to attain a sustainable and diversified economy in our nation, farming is a great way to marry our socio-economic and environmental goals. We have remained at the crossroad of the diversification of our economy for too long, farming is the way to go.

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