LIVE UPDATE: Policymakers, farmers, others gather for agriculture symposium

NIRSAL MD/CEO, Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed.
NIRSAL MD/CEO, Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed.

Policymakers, experts, farmers and others will on Monday gather in Abuja for a national symposium on agriculture organised by Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, PTCIJ, and the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL.

The symposium will bring together stakeholders from diverse professional agronomic background led by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, to discuss on resolving risks in the nation’s agricultural value chain.

Nigeria’s former Minister of Agriculture and current President of the African Development Bank, AFDB, Akinwumi Adesina, will be highlight speaker at the event.

Mr. Adesina recently won the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate at a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington.

Also expected at the symposium are the Minister of Water Resources, Suleman Adamu; Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai; Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State and Governor Akinwumi Ambode of Lagos State.

The event holds at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Central Business District between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

“The event is the first of its kind in Nigeria, it is a platform designed to foster productive discussion among all stakeholders ranging from farmers at the beginning of the value chain to consumers at the end of it; all geared on the road to helping Nigeria sharpen its focus on agriculture and chart a consistent forward-moving course for the sector.

“At the end of this symposium, it is aimed at having a compendium of workable, deployable strategies for transitioning the agricultural sector to the frontline of economic sustainability as Nigeria look beyond oil and gas to agriculture as a viable alternative source of revenue,” the organisers said.

PREMIUM TIMES will provide live updates of the event.

Watch Live Video below:

10:12: Arrival and registration of guests still ongoing.

10:23: Guest all seated waiting for the arrival of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, for the commencement of the event.

10.44: As the guests patiently await the arrival of the minister, the organisers entertain them with soul music.

10:56: The host of the event, Eyitayo George, appeals to the seated guest to rearrange their sitting as they kick off the event with the national anthem.

11.00: The chief executive, PTCIJ, Dapo Olorunyomi, highlights the need to solve crucial problems in the agricultural sector through bringing in key players to think and strategise to come up with practical solutions to problems in the sector. He said that is one of the reasons for organising this event.

11.07: As part of PTCIJ’s stategic efforts to build the agric sector Mr. Olorunyomi said an Agric bootcamp will start tomorrow to raise a new crop of solution based, policy layered journalists to cover the sector.

11:20: Mr. Olorunyomi recalled that earlier this year, a similar event had been organised for the health sector. He noted that today’s event was focused on agricultural development in Nigeria.

“Today’s symposium marks a significant beginning of the Agricultural boot camp that will officially begin tomorrow, In our Agricultural boot camp, we intend to train 40 journalists to report in detail and aptness, agricultural development and menace in Nigeria,” he said.

“The aim is to help people see the opportunities in this sector, that’s what good journalism should be all about”, he added.

11:26: Abba Gambo takes the stage to deliver a paper on “Untangling the bottlenecks towards Nigeria’s Agriculture transformation.”

Mr. Gambo, a professor and agricultural consultant to the Governors Forum, started his presentation with the major factors affecting rice production in Nigeria.

“Smuggling of rice is the major factor affecting rice production in Nigeria. Unless the government tackles that, the country cannot be self sufficient in rice production”, he said.

11.35: Mr. Gambo mentioned rudimentary equipment, small hectares, lack of modern technology and a lot of politics around distribution of fertilisers as the problems facing food security in Nigeria.

According to him, the problems result in low input which yield low output. Other problems include harsh environment vagaries, low knowledge, poor access to credit, inadequate and ineffective extensions and insecurity.

11.43: Mr. Gambo said only 33.4 million hectres of farm are cultivable in Nigeria to feed about 180 million people.

“The average age of the Nigerian farmer is 59 years,” he said.

On the nutritional value of the average consumption of food by Nigerians, he said daily meals must consist of four classes of food which include, cereal and cereal based products, milk and milk based products, fruits and vegetables and meat and meat based products.

11.30: Mr. Gambo said 79 per cent of Nigerians live below $2 per day.

He highlighted challenges facing the agriculture sector to include environmental issues caused by climate change, insurgency, and national disasters. According to him, every zone has its peculiar challenges.

He concluded based on his analysis or the sector that there is no food security in Nigeria.

12:26: Mr. Gambo noted that the South-south region has the advantage of food security in aquaculture due to massive water body and rivers in most of their communities.

The major challenge of agriculture in the South-south region is availability of land and militancy, he said.

The professor made the guest laugh as he jokingly said he is planning to become a militant following President Muhammadu Buhari’s decision to start oil exploration in Borno State.

“I will go to Niger Delta region for Tompolo and his boys to train me before I relocate to Maiduguri and set up an amnesty programme”, the don said with a smile on his face.

“Me and my boys will start disturbing the government just like the activities of the militants.”

12.30: Mr. Gambo also highlighted three things common to the North Central region. They include aquaculture, youth restlessness, and export-based agriculture. On export-based agriculture, he gave an example of some persons in the north who plant roses in view of the Valentine season. According to him, they harvest up to a million roses and export at $1 dollar per Rose.

He also talked about the youth restlessness in the region and how a certain group of youth popularly called ‘mola’, roam the streets, going from house to house begging for money.

12:32: The professor frowned at the way market women are down priced, a factor he said was “discouraging, as they make a living off their farm produce whereas same people who under price them go to super stores to buy same goods at a much more higher price than they offered to this women”.

He decried the fact that in the entire 36 states, there is no single government agric processing plant which reduces agric wastage.

“Dangote had opened a Tomatoes processing plant in Kura but instantly closed it down, it’s bad. individuals like him and the government should open agro processing plants in the country”, he noted.

On a concluding note, he said that there should be a comprehensive farmers database, comprehensive soil map which is very important for investors. “It would help provide investors with information on what particular fertiliser is best for their,” farm lands. he said. He urged state governments to identify their agric comparative advantages.

Other necessary actions, he said, include efficient water management systems, germplasm development. and research and development.

“For the past two weeks, over the 15 agric research institutes in Nigeria have been on strike and nothing has been said or done about it. How do we expect farmers to fare,” he said.

He also stressed the need for improved access to credit pointing out that it should be made easier especially pertaining to collateral. He said interest rate for farmers’ loans should not exceed single digit.

12:35: The host, Mr. George, announced the presence of the representative of Kaduna State Governor, Jumai Kate Ambi, Director, Agriculture Services, Kaduna Ministry of Agric and Forestry, shortly before the end of the first session of the symposium as guests went for tea break.

13:20: The professor takes the stage to respond to questions from guests.

13.21: A participant raised concern about the 1.5 tons per hectre rice production earlier raised by Mr. Gambo. The guest argued that the average production of rice per hectre in Nigeria is between 5-6 tons per hectre using Jigawa State as a case study.

In his reaction, Mr. Gambo stood his ground. He reiterated that rice production is 1.5 tons in Nigeria adding that Jigawa State government went to search for a particular high yielding seed which is not applicable to the other states in nation.

13.36: The representative of the Kaduna State governor, Mrs. Ambi, takes over the stage to deliver the governor’s keynote.

13:40: Mrs. Ambi bragged that Kaduna state government has achieved tremendous success in attracting private investors.

“The Kaduna State Government has partnered with Vimcampo Potato Farm and Processing which is a self-styled rice and potato processing plant in West Africa, located in Manchock, Kaura Local government Area.

“The $120 million plant when completed will provide about 30,000 jobs, with 200,000 out-grower farmers. The state government intends that 60 per cent of the French fries produced will be exported,” she said.

Mrs. Ambi also disclosed that Olam Integrated feed Mill and Poultry project invested $150 million to establish two state of the art animal feed mills, poultry feed mills, poultry breeding farms and a hatchery in Kaduna and Kwara state.

14:05: Tobi Oluwatola takes the stage for panel session tagged “Challenges and solutions to the Agriculture value chain.”

14: 07: The facilitator introduced Ronke Eko-Aderinoye, Austine Maduka, Sanusi Majama’a and Asma Mirza as panelists for the session.

14:20: Mr. Oloruntoba asks the panelists to narrate the challenges they have faced in the agricultural sector

Ms. Asma Mirza, a farmer, said an attack she experienced at the 30 hectares of a 44 year abandoned government irrigation project she purchased was one of the major challenges she faced. According to her, the local government chairman saw her as a threat as they were collecting revenue from the projects. She also said she had experienced other challenges a Nigerian farmer can face aside kidnapping.

She also pointed out the need for a review of the tariffs in the sector as they are very old.

Mr. Maduka, the National Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Cassava Growers Association, said until the perception of Nigerians concerning the sector evolves from Agriculture to Agribusiness the sector would not move forward.

14: 25: Another panellist, Ms. Ronke, said the major challenge affecting the agriculture sector in Nigeria is not government policies.

She suggested that the sector should focus on community based agriculture in capacity building adding that farmers need to step up their games.

14:50: A panellist, Mr. Sanusi, while reacting to earlier paper presentation by Mr. Gambo on challenges confronting the agriculture sector in Nigeria said that the country has the potential to go into commercial farming.

“This administration is taking deliberate steps to tackle most of the challenges.”

“We have everything required to excel in agriculture in Nigeria but our insincerity to our nation, lack of political will, poor policy framework have consistently drowned our agricultural sector and capabilities. To surpass this, we must have a pragmatic change of our attitude towards agriculture in all facets,” he said.

15:10: Mr. Maduka, in response to a question on the challenges faced in exporting cassava, said the cost of production is high.

According to him, in Ghana and South Africa, a tonne of Cassava is cultivated with about N250 while in Nigeria, it is cultivated with N13,000.

He also said the cassava produced in Nigeria is only good for garri and that cassava chips is just an internet fantasy and not achievable with the Nigerian cassava.

When asked how many members the Cassava Growers Association has, as Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava, Mr. Maduka said the association has five million members across the 36 states of the federation.

15:12: Asmir concluded the panel discussion by suggesting that there should be dedicated television and radio stations established to educate people about the framework of the agriculture sector in Nigeria.

15.15: Aliyu Abdulhameed, Managing Director, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending, NIRSAL takes over for the second paper presentation tagged “De-risking the Agriculture Sector”.

15.17: Mr. Abdulhameed began his presentation with illustration of a chart displaying the Nigerian Agribusiness landscape.

He stated that the major problem affecting the agriculture sector in the country is the issue of yield.

“Everything about agriculture is pure science”, he said.

He added that technology and innovation is the only way forward. If government fails to get it right, things will get worsen, he said.

15.20: A question and answer session on the keynote address commenced.

There was a question on how real the services provided by NIRSAL are. The MD/CEO said there are different packages for the different levels of the value chain

A member of the audience also talked about an experience he had with NIRSAL where he was not encouraged by the staff there despite his plans.

15.30: Mr. Abdulhammed speaking on NIRSAL agribusiness; “Our organisation is about the risk management and business development. You have a viable agric business plan, we help you manage it to the point where your profit is secured. And in eventualities, we bear the loss. we search for and provide the market for you to sell your produce. Our tasks is to project better agricultural sector development in Nigeria.”

He concluded by saying that NIRSAL is determined to identify and fix all the broken linkages within prioritised agricultural value chains/commodities, de-risk the sector and facilitate investment, as well as facilitate sustainable access to local and international markets for all agricultural commodities and services. In all, NIRSAL is about agric risk management and investment protection, he said.

The event ends with a vote of thanks by PTCIJ Programme Director, Joshua Olufemi.


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