The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe has attributed the slow pace of growth in the agriculture sector in the second quarter (Q2) of 2018 to dry season and lack of adequate irrigation.
A Professor of Finance and Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Prof Uche Uwaleke had earlier expressed disappointment over the poor performance in the sector most especially as the sector was expected to be the largest employer of labour due to President Mohammadu Buhari’s diversification strategy.
Speaking with THISDAY, the Professor of Finance said, ”The performance of the non-oil sector was not particularly impressive. Agriculture was particularly disappointing at just 1.19 percent, one of the lowest growth rates in recent times. The reason for this is not far-fetched. The seemingly intractable clashes between herders and farmers were partly to blame.”
The Minister, while responding to this statement said, the poor performance is due to post-harvest catastrophes which includes lack of storage, lack of transportation and poor road network in villages due to negligence by the local government system.
He said, “We’ve just ended a season, the next harvest is beginning in about a month. So, dry season farming here is very low, we don’t have much irrigation.
“You will find the figures in October and November much higher than what you saw.
“We go through that spell and then you climb in the rainy season because agriculture is 98 percent rain-fed and that’s the reason.
“But 22 per cent is big; we can say that by and large, we saw Nigeria out of recession and one of the factors is what we mentioned just now: interest rates.
“People want to go into processing and value addition; we lose a lot of what we grow to post-harvest catastrophes like lack of storage, lack of transportation and village roads simply not maintained because the local government system has collapsed- village roads are not done because the local governments are no longer working by and large.”
Speaking further, Chief Audu Ogbe said, “farmers can’t even move their crops to centers where they’ll sell them. We have things in demand in Europe but we haven’t quite arrived at standards demanded by our buyers.
“Even the packaging and the processing for us to be able to hit the European markets and do what others are doing like Kenya in East Africa, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana on pineapples and all kind of product of export.
“So, agriculture will remain at that 22 percent to 25 percent for a while until we intensify irrigation and begin production all year round.”