By Onome Amuge
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has promised to make food security paramount in the country by undertaking reforms in the agricultural sector, including the reintroduction of commodity boards to make the industry more competitive for industry players.
Tinubu stated this during his inaugural speech on May 29,2023, where he presented a policy statement highlighting measures his administration will undertake to drive the country’s agriculture sector.
In his words, “Rural incomes shall be secured by commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products. A nationwide programme for storage and other facilities to reduce spoilage and waste will be undertaken.
The 16th Nigerian president also stated that agricultural hubs will be created throughout the nation to increase production and engage in value-added processing. He added that the livestock sector will be introduced to best modern practices and steps taken to minimise the perennial conflict over land and water resources in the sector.
Through these actions, the president said, food shall be made more abundant yet less costly and that farmers shall earn more while the average Nigerian pays less.
The president’s policy statement on agriculture, particularly his promise to reintroduce the commodity board has been lauded by agriculture stakeholders, who are optimistic that the commodity board will play a significant role in driving food prices in the country.
They noted that if the president’s speech is backed by the right political will and appropriate action plan, it is possible for Nigeria to have quality and affordable food in abundance, creating a win-win situation for both the producers and consumers.
Dwelling on this, Austine Maduka, national president, Community Allied Farmers Association of Nigeria (COMAFAS), said the commodity exchange boards, if seriously implemented, will help to enhance and promote large-scale agricultural production.
Maduka further noted that the board can help in ensuring a sufficient supply of tradable commodities in the appropriate amounts and at the appropriate times on the global market, while also boosting the supply and accessibility of raw materials to manufacturing sectors both locally and globally.
The agriculture consultant, however, warned that the commodity exchange boards will fail unless the new administration avoids engaging unskilled and inexperienced politicians, appointees, and contractors. He stressed that the agricultural sector is already confronted with that problem, and it has led to low trading activities and investment.
According to Maduka, Nigerian markets are not well-organised or specialised in dealing with commodities. He also pointed out that the idea of fixing prices ahead of the trading period often suffers certain fluctuations due to shortages or overproduction, which may warrant a change in already fixed prices of commodities.
To this end, he urged the government and organised private sector to establish a management board involving associations, commodity traders, and all stakeholders in the agricultural sector including the Federation of Agricultural Commodity Associations of Nigeria (FACAN), and All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN). He listed other stakeholders to include commodity association leaders, market associations,Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, Nigerian Export Promotion Council , and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
Michael Adedotun Oke, an agricultural extension professional at the Federal Capital Territory Agricultural Development Programmes, said the reintroduction of commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices will create food thinking that will be confronted with generated price control and values for money.
“Farmers, who are into crops and animal products will be able to make profit and different people will get into agriculture and make agricultural practices profitable,” he added.
Oke, therefore, advised the government that there must be some policy and structure to leverage upon to bring the commodity boards into realisation.
Kabiru Ibrahim, president of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), said the president has struck the right cord by proposing a commodity board. He emphasised that may be the “elixir” for prosperity among the smallholder farmers towards addressing marketing and post-harvest loss.
Ibrahim also stated that this will better the lot of our smallholder farmers by creating economic opportunities for them.
The AFAN president, however, hoped that President Tinubu will move further by appointing a focused driver to implement his proposal and closely monitor the actual implementation of the initiative to enhance the country’s agro-economy.
Femi Oke, chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Lagos chapter and South-West zone, said the reintroduction of commodity board was long overdue. He added that its implementation by the new government will play a vital role in price control, market regulation and availability of food from farm to table.
Ayoola Olalusi, a professor of Agricultural and Food Engineering,Federal University of Technology, Akure, said the reintroduction of the commodity board would address the high cost of food, drive uniform market prices, and control market prices.
According to Olalusi, the new president was in the right direction to focus on agriculture and developing it to an exportable level to boost the export of agricultural products.
On his part, Africanfarmer Mogaji, former chairman of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Agric and Agro-Allied Group, commended the president’s prioritising agriculture and food security.
“I can say for the first time since 1999, return to civilian rule, we are having an inaugural speech that captures a palliate and captures the major challenges the country has. Beyond the board of commodities, the president talked about storage, trading, credit and facilitating credit,” he stated.
Olufemi Ajayi of the Department of Agricultural Extension, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, said the reintroduction of the commodity board will play a significant role in addressing post harvest losses as it will enable consumers to purchase farm produce from farmers during glut.
To ensure a better performance, Ajayi called for re-establishing the agric input supply unit in the Ministry of Agriculture to facilitate the availability of machinery at affordable prices to farmers. He also urged the president to improve security in and around farmlands across the country to attract new investors into the sector.