Stakeholders in Nigeria’s agricultural industry have said the country may face a bleak future and lack of competitive edge in the African free trade market unless something is done to reduce the reported annual losses in commodity exports.
Nigeria recently signed the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and there have been talks that the country needs to ramp up its productive capacity to be able to compete in that market.
But the poor local production of major crops such as cocoa, groundnut and rubber and huge importation have exposed Nigeria to price fluctuations in the global commodity market, according to analysts at the PwC.
Nigeria recorded 11.89 percent decrease in agricultural exports, from N97.3bn in the fourth quarter 2018 to N86.1bn in the first quarter of 2019, data from the National Bureau of Statistics, have showed.
Conversely, imported agricultural products increased by 7.98 percent from what it was in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 28.1 percent from the first quarter of 2018.
This declining trend of the agro sector was also seen in 2018 where the country recorded a drop from 3.45 percent in 2017 to 2.12 percent in 2018.
Kenton Dashiell, the deputy director general for Partnerships for Delivery at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, said Nigeria needed to raise its crop yield per hectare, noting that it was too low.
Stakeholders have also attributed the not-so-impressive performance of the sector to insecurity in the major food producing states of the nation.
“The insecurity has prevented wealthy farm owners from going to the farms for fear of being kidnapped,” the President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Babatunde Ruwase, said.
In addition to insecurity, there are other challenges such as poor access to finance, poor infrastructure and logistics, especially access to the nation’s seaports.
Agricultural products spend weeks and sometimes months before getting to the port because of the gridlock at Apapa port, according to exporters.
They said when the goods eventually got to their destination, they could be returned if found not be fresh.