Mechanization, digital solutions‘ll boost agricultural production in Nigeria — AATF

The African Agricultural Technology Foundation, AATF, said mechanisation and digital solutions will boost agricultural productivity, accelerated market access, informed pricing, financing opportunities, and result-oriented extension services in Nigeria.

AATF made this known in its agricultural programme overview for African farmers, where it pointed out that the agricultural sector of Sub-Saharan Africa remains the least in terms of mechanized agricultural system compared to other parts of the world. The overview of mechanization and digital agriculture by the Foundation also highlighted factors that need urgency by African governments to adopt mechanized and digital solutions to tackle them, which include population growth and changing lifestyles, rapid urbanization, reducing the agricultural workforce, and others.

AATF believes that technology can be a catalyst for the transformation of the agriculture sector in Africa, as it has been in other parts of the world. AATF said: “The agricultural sector of Sub-Saharan Africa is the least mechanized in the world; farmers have on average a tenth of the mechanized tools of their peers in other developing regions. This lack of mechanization has undermined the competitiveness of African farmers, reducing their productivity and exacerbating a vicious cycle where they are unable to invest in modern machinery and in digital technology they require. “Population growth and changing lifestyles are creating a surge in demand for food, well beyond the current capacity of the sector. The rapid urbanization of African societies adds to the urgency. As individuals increasingly move to the cities, rural labour rates are likely to rise and farms will need to do more with fewer available hands and produce ever more food to meet the swelling demand.

“Mechanisation and digital solutions offer geometric production increase, accelerated market access, informed pricing, more financing opportunities, and results-oriented extension services required to drive radical change of the sector. It is critical to not only identify appropriate mechanization and digital technologies to markets to enhance their availability, access, and proper application by smallholder farmers for improved returns”, but it also stated. The Foundation also maintained that “The lack of mechanization is a key bottleneck to the transformation of African agriculture, which is why AATF is working to give farmers the tools to increase their productivity, investment in their farmers and access new markets.”


Future of Nigerian cocoa production lies in Niger Delta – Report

BASED on the volume of cocoa output from the Niger Delta region and the number of cocoa farmers there, a new report says the future of Nigerian cocoa production lies in the region.

The output of Nigerian cocoa beans for three years, between 2014/15 and 2016/17 was 620,000 metric tons and Niger Delta Delta states accounted for 546, 822 metric tons of the total output, revealed Cocoa Value Chain Assessment Report.

In the report unveiled by the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta (PIND), 88 per cent of the total cocoa output for those years was produced by the Niger Delta states.

“There are 120, 000 active cocoa farmers in the Niger Delta and 66 per cent of them have plantations with size ranging from one to five hectare of land,” says Executive Director of PIND, Dara Akala, while presenting the report at a Cocoa Stakeholders’ round-table held in Akure, Ondo State capital.

According to him, the report was the result of a study carried out by the Foundation to provide a detailed scoping and value chain analyses of the cocoa sector in the Niger Delta.

He explained that PIND is already implementing interventions in aquaculture, cassava, poultry and palm oil sectors adding that with some of the interventions attaining full maturity and reaching scale, the Foundation is now expanding into the cocoa sector.

“The cocoa sector has growth potential and ability to increase income and employment,” he said.

He said the Foundation’s vision, within five years, is that the cocoa industry in the Niger Delta will be characterised by improved linkages and communications between smallholder farmers and the processors and exporters, with mutual incentives.

Akala who was represented by PIND’s Market Systems Development Manager, James Elekwachi added that cocoa accounted for more than 30 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural export and generated a total of $774.6million in 2016 out of which $83.6million came from exportation of cocoa derivatives including cocoa butter and cocoa paste.

In 2016, the report said agriculture accounted for 24.2 per cent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), noting that the sector is highly concentrated on crop production which accounts for 90 per cent output.

“Fishery, forestry and livestock, account for remaining 10 per cent,” the report said, insisting that the country’s agricultural potential is still high because Nigeria 82million hectares of arable land, out of which only 34million hectares have been cultivated.

It remarked that Nigeria cocoa production in the past 17 years has witnessed some volatility, noting that production has been fairly flat, “with peaks and valleys due to the cyclicality of cocoa tree production and weather conditions.”

“It was discovered from the study that for one hectare of a cocoa farm in Ondo State, the 7th year is the break-even point.”

On the cocoa processing industry, the report disclosed that the industry is divided between the processing industry (intermediate processors and finished good processors) and exporters.

While noting that local immediate processing companies produce cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa cake, it said a number of them are already grappling for survival and some have closed down the operation.

“Of the 17 intermediate processing companies, only five are functional with combined capacity utilisation of 50, 000 metric ton and four of them are in Ondo State,” the report said.

However, it stressed, that an estimated 90 per cent of these cocoa derivatives are exported, not including cocoa powder.

It further stated that there were 123 firms in cocoa business in Nigeria including processors and exporters, and that there are 20 regular exporters operating in the sector out of which only three of them control 50 per cent of cocoa beans export.

Small scale farmers, the report said, have no direct contact with the processors and exporters, lamenting that the awareness of sustainable production or certification to motivate better producer price among farmers in is limited to about 10 per cent of farmers in the Niger Delta region.

“If Nigerian exporters can incentivise farmers to produce more cocoa, they can sell it, so the challenge is on increasing production through increased productivity and greater area under production,” the report suggested.

“An integrated markets approach, considering economic, social and environmental dimensions is needed to improve cocoa sector competitiveness.”


FAO launches framework to support agriculture in Nigeria

The United Nations Food for Agriculture Organisation (UNFOA) has launched the Country Programme Framework (CPF) in Nigeria as part of the organisation’s efforts to promote agriculture in the country.

The launch took place on Tuesday at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja.

The CPF is a medium-term priority framework, derived from nationally defined priorities and objectives to be achieved over a five year period of the programming cycle.

The framework covers the main areas of FAO work in Nigeria, with the aims to achieve zero hunger and contribute to the attainment of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Speaking at the launch, the FAO representative, Suffyan Koroma, said the framework will focus on food and nutrition security, support effective and operational framework, support Nigeria’s economic diversity and decent employment, and enhance disaster risk management in the country with resilience.

He said it aligns with the FAO strategic objectives of sustainable inclusive development growth.

He said the CPF preparation started from a formal request by the Nigerian government in 2017.

Mr Koroma said the framework also looks forward to helping in creating peace between farmers and herders, especially in Benue and Nassarawa states.

It also aims at improving the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources, he said.

Mr Koroma said the current CPF is building on the 2013- 2017 CPF by noting its achievements and learning from its challenges.

He listed the objectives of the framework as promoting school garden for better nutrition and learning skill, mainstreaming nutrition education in Agriculture, and learning extension and urban food system development.

The CPF will also offer support for appropriate and operationally effective agricultural policies.

Speaking at the event, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said climate change has been a major issue for agriculture across the country.

He said beyond that climate change has been a danger to human inhabitation. He also noted the danger of tree falling across the country for firewood and for export.

He said part of the disappearance of the forest today is responsible for the drying up of the Lake Chad.

“Desertification is on its way to Nigeria so far we continue the cutting down of trees,” Mr Ogbeh said

He said the country also needs quality seeds that can endure high temperature and also give good yields.


NRCRI suggests diversification of cassava produce

National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), has proposed product diversification as a remedy to retain Nigeria’s position as one of the world’s leading producers of cassava.

Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Institute, Prof. Ukpabi Joseph Ukpabi made the suggestion during an interview with AgroNigeria at the National Stakeholders Workshop on the prevention of cassava brown streak disease in Nigeria, organised by West African Virus Epidemiology (WAVE) recently in Abuja.

Prof. Ukpabi stressed the need to diversify the uses of cassava in the country to serve other purposes other than food consumption.

According to him,“Product Diversification is the key. We need to diversify the use of cassava as 30% of our cassava is being consumed as human food but if you go to some countries like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, majority of their cassava are exported to Europe. We need to know how to diversify the market because of international policies.”

The CEO noted that the lifting of the ban on exporting cassava would be beneficial to the country, while maintaining that the momentum can only be built if the produce is being utilised both for food, livestock, and industrial purposes.

He also admonished that farmers should ensure the quality of their products because international trade requires certain precautions and standards.

On the varieties of cassava, Prof. Ukpabi added that the leaves would also be utilised and exported to China to generate more income for the farmers and subsequently improve the economy of the nation.

He further stated that any country that possesses the wealth of cassava can never face famine, while also highlighting the need to prevent viruses and diseases from crippling the cassava value chain.

“If there is excess rainfall, drought or starvation, famine comes in. Because cassava is a hardened crop, it can withstand some harsh condition so based on that, we take cassava very serious. By our local tradition, we consider yam as the king of all crops but when it comes to cassava, we overlook the kingship and look at the one that is sustainable in terms of food security in Nigeria which brings me to WAVE.”

“Due to the problem of viruses wiping out our cassava crops, anything that will affect the crop will affect Nigeria and because we have that mandate to research into cassava, we are willing to collaborate with international agencies like IITA, universities, state governments, farmers, food processors and extension organisations to make sure that we have food security and generation of income for farmers, processors and even the marketers.”He explained.

While commending the organisers of the event, Prof. Ukpabi noted that WAVE is not limited to Nigeria or West Africa alone, but also stretches across Africa.


Enhancing Nigeria Agriculture Chain

A recent report by the World Bank on Agriculture Finance and Agricultural insurance said ” There is an ever increasing need to invest in agriculture due to a drastic rise in global population and changing dietary preferences of the growing middle class in emerging markets towards higher value agricultural products.

“In addition, climate risk increase the need for investment to make agriculture more resilient to such risks. Estimate suggest that demand for food will increase by 70% by 2050 and at least $80 million annual investment will be needed to meet the demand, most of which needs to come from the private sector. Financial sector institutions in developing countries lend a disproportionately lower share of their loan portfolios to agriculture compared to the agriculture sector’s share of GDP.

“On the other side, the growth and deepening of agriculture finance markets is constrained by a variety of factors which include: inadequate or ineffective policies; high transaction costs to reach remote rural populations, covariance of production, market, and price risks; and absence of adequate instruments to manage risks; low levels of demand due to fragmentation and incipient development of value chains; and lack of expertise of financial institutions in managing agricultural loan portfolios.”

It noted that the development of agriculture requires financial services that can support larger agriculture investments and agriculture-related infrastructure that require long-term funding (given that currently transportation and logistics costs are too high, especially for landlocked countries), a greater inclusion of youth and women in the sector, and advancements in technology (both in terms of mechanising the agricultural processes and leveraging mobile phones and electronic payment platforms to enhance access and reduce transaction costs).
It further stated that agriculture finance and agricultural insurance are strategically important for eradicating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity.

Globally, there are an estimated 500 million small-holder farming households – representing 2.5 billion people – relying, to varying degrees, on agricultural production for their livelihoods.

Historically, Nigeria was considered an agricultural giant and a model to other countries up until the early 70s. A study carried out then had indicated that; agriculture was the main contributor to Nigeria’s economy, contributing over 64 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product, providing employment for over 70 per cent of the population and provided 95 per cent of the food needed to feed Nigerians.

That is why the federal government has through its agricultural policy continued to encourage private sector participation in the sector. This has been the focal point of the federal government’s effort in diversifying the Nigerian economy through the promotion of agriculture and Guinness Nigeria Plc recently keyed into the government’s initiative through the launch of its “Grow with Nigeria,” in Abuja recently.

Speaking on the initiative, the Managing Director of Guinness Nigeria, Baker Magunda, said the move was a demonstration of the company’s commitment to the federal government’s policy on diversification and local content.
According to him, the initiative would also support the growth of the agricultural value chain and small holder farmers who form an integral part of the brewer’s business.

“Over the last 20 years, our business has consistently sourced its entire core ingredients such as sorghum and malt extract locally through the various local raw material chains. Currently, our local content sourcing is 75 per cent and we plan to increase this significantly within the next couple of years.


Nigeria to host 5th Agro-food expo – Official

Eight countries are expected to participate in the fifth Agro-food and Plastprintpack Nigeria 2019, aimed at providing solutions to the challenging needs of the entire agricultural value chain.

Mr Akin Alabi, the Managing Partner, Corporate Farmers International, made this known in a statement on Tuesday in Lagos.

The countries to participate in the event scheduled to hold from March 26 to March 28 in Lagos are Belarus, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Turkey.

The statement quoted Alabi as saying that Nigeria was fast becoming Africa’s largest food market, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

“Nigeria invests heavily in its food production increasing import of food processing and packaging machinery by 15 per cent in 2017, amounting to about 262 million Euros.

“This amount makes Nigeria the second largest importer of packaging technologies in sub-Saharan Africa, while imports for packaging technologies increased by 34 per cent in 2018.

“This double digit growth in 2017 and 2018, according to the German Engineering Federation, and the Federal Government’s forecasts will also cause a double-digit growth in 2019,” he said.

Alabi said that the event would comprise three sub-brands; Agro-Tech Nigeria, Food and Beverage Tech Nigeria, and Food and Hospitality Nigeria.

“Agro-Nigeria has been organised by Fair trade Messe and DLG German Agricultural Society since 2015, focusing on crop and animal production, agricultural engineering and bio-energy.”


How high-tech agriculture is transforming the fortunes of Nigerian rice farmers

New planting and harvesting techniques have transformed the fortunes of rice farmers in Nigeria’s agricultural belt, turning family-run plots into thriving businesses.

Many have doubled or tripled their profit with higher yields and better-quality rice that gives smallholder farmers access to a wider market.

Three years ago, Mohammed Sani scraped enough to feed his family from a 1.5-hectare plot in Kebbi State. After levelling the land, acquiring superior seeds and changing planting techniques from a scattering style known as broadcasting to transplanting nursery-grown crops in neat rows, his output has increased by more than 50 per cent.

“I’ve realised rice farming is a business,” he says.

Rice is a staple food in Africa but supply falls far short of demand with yields in the sub-Saharan region among the lowest in the world. Pressure is mounting on local agriculture to feed rapidly growing populations and reduce reliance on expensive foreign rice.

In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, productivity has increased but 55 per cent of demand is still met by imports. Government efforts to reach self-sufficiency and improve food securityare contingent on the success of small-scale farmers like Sani, who account for more than 80 per cent of cultivation.

But slow mechanisation, insufficient yields and poor quality rice – compounded by a weak market infrastructure – have left them unable to compete with consumer preferences for imported varieties.

In the past, you risked “losing a tooth” on the stones in Nigerian rice but there’s a growing awareness that now it matches up to imported brands says Abubakar Abba Adamu, CEO of Labana, one of the largest rice mills in north-west Nigeria.

Labana provides training and high quality seeds to thousands of farmers in Kebbi State then guarantees purchase of their harvest under the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI), a project that supports value chains in African rice farming.


Nigeria could lead Africa to innovative future in agriculture by approving GMO cowpea

Nigeria has commenced a historic process of leading other African nations on smart and innovative agriculture with the recent application seeking commercial release of the genetically modified insect-resistant cowpea.

If approved, the pod borer-resistant (PBR) cowpea will become the nation’s first genetically modified food crop….At a recent public dialogue on PBR cowpea organized by the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) in Abuja, Prof. Muhammad Ishiyaku, principal investigator and lead scientist of the cowpea research team, told participants  that this new variety of seed has the potential to reduce pesticide use [and] increase production by 20 percent.

The pod-borer insect (maruca) [forces] farmers to spray pesticides about six to seven times within a planting season. Farmers often cannot afford to buy these expensive pesticides, which are harmful to human health and sustainable environmental practices. But they stand to lose over 80 percent of their crop unless the insect is controlled.

Some environmental activists totally disagree with this perspective….[T]he anti-GMO campaigners have [tried] to stop release of the crop into the environment and accused the NBMA of lacking neutrality.

It is true that every new technology is bound to face suspicion and concerns, but Nigeria must be brave and overcome fear, especially when there is substantial scientific proof of safety measures in place.

Nigeria rice mill hits 250 tonnes daily production

Rice mill

Kano-based Amarava Rice Mill says it is targeting to record 500 tonnes of daily production by June, just as it hit 250 tonnes to boost local self-sufficiency.

Mr Subhash Chand, the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in Nigeria, made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Tuesday in Abuja.

NAN recalls that the multimillion Naira state-of-the-art rice mill, owned by an Indian national, was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari in Kano in December 2019.

The diplomat gave the assurance that the production capacity of the mill was being expanded to hit 500 tonnes by June.

He added that the investment was part of the overall efforts of the High Commission to help Nigeria attain self-sufficiency in rice production.

Chand said that India was supportive of Nigeria’s efforts to fully localise rice production, disclosing that many Indian companies were already among the leading millers in Nigeria.

He disclosed that the mill was built with machineries fabricated in Nigeria with local contents by Indian and Nigerian technological experts.

“India has been maintaining good relationship with Nigeria and will continue to do so.

“Through Nigeria-India’s cordial relationship, Indian investors are already investing in Nigeria to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production,’’ he said.

Chand noted that technical partnership was another area of mutual benefits to the two nations.

NAN reports that in 2017, Nigeria’s rice consumption stood at 7.9 million tonnes while the production rate has increased to 5.8 tonnes per annum from previous 5.5 million tonnes due to Federal Government’s local rice production policy.

The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) attributed the increase to the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme with a total of 12 million rice producers and four million hectares of FADAMA rice land cultivated.

NAN reports that Amarava Agro Processors Limited, a subsidiary of Fullmark Group was established at Amarawa Village, Gezawa Local Government Area of Kano State, with an initial 288 metric tonnes daily capacity.

NAN recalls that Buhari said at the inauguration that Nigeria’s continued dependence on rice importation had put a strain on the economy as well as the nation’s food flow.

Buhari added that a substantial amount of the nation’s foreign exchange went into rice importation yearly, noting the mill will help Nigeria to progress towards food self-sufficiency.

NAN reports that the bilateral trade between Nigeria and India between 2017 and 2018 was touching $12 billion (about N4.3 trillion), which can be expanded by both countries.


Maize farmers want FG govt to provide farming implements

Maize Growers, Processors and Marketers Association of Nigeria, Oyo state chapter has called on the Federal Government to make farming implements available for its members for optimal productivity.

Mr Israel Oluwagbemileke, the Chairman of the Association made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Ibadan.

He said that the farmers needed farm implements such as tractors, seed planter, and harvester machine among others to enable them produce large quantity of maize.

He said that the lives of farmers and their household had not improved as expected because they could not transform farming into business due to lack of government’s support.

The chairman noted that the farmers maize production during the late harvesting season this year was not much difference from that of the previous year due to poor funding of the agricultural sector.

“Last year, we realised 4.6 metric tonnes per hectare while this year we realised 5.2 metric tonnes per hectare, the difference is small, we could have produced more if we had all equipment and funds needed.

“We have little improvement this year because we planted improved seed some of which are drought resistance and grew faster, also we had more rains this year than the previous year,” he said.

Oluwagbemileke appealed to government to make available grants and free interest loans to farmers to boost the production of maize and other crops in the country, saying this would also make farming attractive and lucrative.

“Let the government give grants to farmers, although they have been doing that but it gets to the wrong hands, let them ensure that the grant gets directly to the right farmers.

“The government should also provide little or no interest loan for farmers.

“Also let all farm equipment be subsidised by the government, if these challenges are addressed, I believe there will be increase in food production in the country.

“Our farmers are ready to produce food that will be enough for the country and even for export if we are adequately supported,” he said.

Oluwagbemileke however advised the farmers to always plant improved seeds with good agronomic practices while praying to God for increase.

He said that the farmers-herders crisis posed serious challenge to the farmers, adding that it had grossly affected production level and called on government to provide lasting solution to the clashes in the country. (NAN)