The Minister for Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday enumerated eleven cash crops that can drive the current recession out of Nigeria, if they are given serious attention by the agriculture sector personnel as well as farmers and appropriately cultivated in the country.
Ogbeh said many of these cash crops that are in very high demand on the global market can be found in surplus in Nigeria, and wonders why Nigerian farmers are still wallowing in poverty despite the huge potentials on their farmlands.
Ogbeh made this declaration when he addressed the 36 governors yesterday (Wednesday) at their Nigeria Governors' Forum meeting at the International Conference Centre in Garki, Abuja.
Specifically, the Minister announced that about 11 cash crops that are much sought after globally and which are in abundance in Nigeria could comfortably take this country out of recession. The crops are cocoa, cashew nuts, pulses (Pidgeon pea), palm oil, yam, cassava starch, ginger. Sesame seeds, gum Arabic, rice, grains, goats, cattle.
The minister said Cocoa which Nigeria used to be the leading exporter has remained a hot cake in the international market but regretted that Nigeria has since fallen to the seventh position among its exporting countries, exporting only 27.5 million tonnes while Cote de Voire has climbed to first position with an annual volume of 1.75 billion tonnes in cocoa exports annually.
Although he divulged that he wasn't naming the crops in any particular order, Ogbeh disclosed that yams which now sell for $16 a tuber in the United states is also in high demand in foreign markets. Other much sought after crops according to the minster include cassava starch, maize, millet, palm oil, cashew nuts and Pidgeon tree.
On Pidgeon pea in particular, Chief Audu Ogbeh said that the demand for the commodity has reached more than a billion dollars annually, most of which come from Africa, particularly our East African brothers who saturate the Indian market with the commodity. "I do not see any reason why Nigeria would not take 25 per cent of that market," he enthused.
The minister also made a case for value addition and standardisation of the produce that are grown in Nigeria and processed for exports, regretting that most of Nigeria's agricultural produce are being declined on the global market because of their inability to meet global market standards, arguing that hands are on deck to rectify the situation.
The minister also identified areas that have been inimical to agricultural growth in the country like the use of unsuitable fertilizer. Do not use 151515 because it is not suitable for the crops and it is not suitable for the soil aa well."
The meeting agreed that almost all the states have fertilizer blending plants which should be deployed to use nationwide so as to have the right blend of fertilizer "for better yield and greater value from crops all over the country."
The minister began by addressing the issue of CAMACO which is lending Nigeria $4.5bn worth of farm implements and machinery with a counterpart funding quota of 15%. The minister however argued that the counterpart fund was "tidy".
This agreement on which an MOU had been signed is expected to supply equipment to all the 36 states and Abuja agricultural equipment according the need of each state for an equal amount of the money.
In response, several state governors suggested ways of meeting the counterpart amount beginning with the chairman of the forum Governor Abdulaziz Yari Abubakar of Zamfara State who suggested that the Federal Government should offset the amount as a loan to the states.
The governor of Kebbi state on his part asked that the agreement include a front-runner arrangement as an agric-diplomacy where the beneficiaries of the $4.5bn loan would pay back using produce from their farms. He said Nigeria should barter the machinery with china and export sesame, cassava starch and soya as compensation for the equipment.
While Governor Abdullahi Abubakar of Bauchi State was more concerned about the intrusion of foreign produce traders into our local markets, the Ebonyi state governor talked about raising the standards of our produce to comparative cropping advantage to the agriculture sector.