UK Trade Adviser on Nigeria Agriculture & Mining, Mr. Oluwaseyi Adepoju has noted that Nigeria should leverage its long-standing relationship with the United Kingdom for knowledge sharing and adoption of best practices in order to deliver for the nation, a sustainable agriculture sector.
Mr Adepoju, who made this statement during an interview session at the recently concluded Feed Nigeria Summit (FNS2021) commended the efforts of the government thus far, adding however that the successes recorded in the sector are not significant enough or moving at the pace of the nation’s population growth.
Referencing his over a decade experience in building businesses from idea stages to IPO across different sectors in Africa, Adepoju noted that partnership with the right players is key for scalability and sustainability in the Nigerian agriculture sector.
According to him, the difference in yields between farmers in Nigeria and those in other climes is simply hinged on apposite knowledge, information and investments in the right technologies.
“The decision to go into farming should be a deliberate business action, just like building an infrastructure. To build a house for instance, you must start with soil testing to know the capacity of the land and the type of building it can accommodate.
“In a similar fashion, agriculture has gotten to that level where you need to be deliberate about the crops you grow, based on the soil-type available to you. Once this is established, the next point of action would be sourcing for the right seeds for the right yields. A UK farmer can grow a particular crop on a particular size of land and a Nigerian farmer will do exactly the same, but with different results, and significantly so. The issue therefore is not that farming is not profitable, it is that farming is only profitable when done right”, he said.
On the willingness of the UK to partner with Nigeria in a mutually beneficial manner, Adepoju stated that Her Majesty’s Government is favourably disposed to working with the Nigerian Government. This is in addition to several UK private entities who are also eager to work with Nigerians across the entire agriculture value chain.
“I can confidently tell you that these entities have affordable & unique technology and are willing to support the Nigerian government & the entire agriculture sector to scale up current efforts and achieve groundbreaking results”, he said.
Speaking further, he noted that “A lot is already being done on the UK side through programs like the LINKS PROGRAM, Propcom etc. targeted at supporting agribusinesses across the entire value chain. In the last 20 years, the UK government has supported more than 1 million individuals to increase their income from agriculture, with more recent projects in the Northern and South-South regions of the country.
“Climate Change and Climate Smart Agriculture for one is also a critical part of our agricultural support work. With heavy rains which results in flooding, as well as increased risk of drought and desertification, it is necessary to create a nexus between increased yields, reduced post-harvest losses, improved nutrition and food security”.
On the additional areas the government needs to prioritize, He underscored the following;
- The private sector should be at the heart of operations in the agriculture sector.
- Government should reduce the cost of food by encouraging free flow of goods and minimizing bureaucratic bottlenecks.
- Government should invest in good technology and think long-term to avoid wastage of money (The UK currently has an export finance facility which can ease the burden of capital for the purchase of large tickets items).
- A special import duty for agricultural machinery, equipment and spare parts should be created.
- Government should improve on aligning the activities of the general financial market with that of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), especially to accommodate more tangibles as collateral options for agric-sector loans.
- More regulations on crop protection products, climate change, pest & diseases are required to accommodate evolving trends.
- Increased and improved trainings for veterinary support staff members (The UK Propcom Program has a curriculum on this already).
- Politicians should stop using tractors for empowerment schemes as this disrupts the tractor rental & sales industry, thereby discouraging real private sector players & investors. Overtime, we have seen these tractors breakdown repeatedly due to poor maintenance with no rental alternative or even affordable sales alternative because of the poor economics of the sector experienced by initial investors/players.