Nigeria is a food-deficit country that on occasions has been dangerously dependent on food imports for the welfare of its people. Its agricultural sector has ceased to be an important contributor to foreign exchange earnings, even its contribution to employment has declined. This situation had not always been so and in fact, Nigeria used to be a major exporter of food crops until the discovery of crude oil in the late 1960s/early 1970s which led to a massive exodus of youths from farming into the cities in search of white collar jobs.
Successive governments in Nigeria have studied the decline in agriculture and have attempted various efforts to re-activate the sector. Most of such efforts have been frustrated by inadequate attention to the critical social and economic root causes of the decline. However, over time and in review of stunted efforts, new policies have been articulated more in line with current successful world- wide practices that emphasise market rewards as the essential motivations in the application of man to land for a bountiful harvest.
However, the policies of the Obasanjo-led government have impacted impacted positively on employment and poverty reduction. Out of the 6.2 % GDP growth rate recorded in 2005, agriculture, according to CBN was a major growth driver. It also contributed about 29 % to GDP. It is believed that if the reforms are sustained, Nigeria will once again not only be able to feed itself but become a net exporter of agricultural products.
Government has introduced several incentives geared towards encouraging investment in the agricultural sector. Among these are
i. a zero duty on agricultural machinery
ii. Pioneer status incentive (three years tax holiday) for agro-processing industry
iii. Several export incentives are also available for manufacturers in the agric sector
iv. Several food items have been prohibited from importation in order to encourage local production. These include frozen foods, juice among others.
The main policy here is sufficiency in food production and surplus for use as industrial raw materials for export. The priority areas include: –
i) all aspects of direct agricultural production, but in particular, rehabilitation of groundnut, cotton, cocoa and oil palm production, fish production and forestry;
- ii) investment in processing of agricultural produce and storage facilities;
iii) investment in processing of agricultural input supply and distribution;
- iv) agricultural mechanization e.g. adoption and use of farm equipment (such as bulldozers, tractors, etc) including the provision of land clearing and land preparation services;
(v) agricultural support activities including research and funding of research activities;
- vi) water resources development, especially for irrigation and flood control infrastructures along river basins;
vii) development of earth dams and construction of wash bores and tube wells;
viii) development and fabrication of appropriate small-scale and mechanised technologies for both on-farm processing (e.g.threshing) and secondary processing of agricultural produce for consumption or storage.
Agricultural products include groundnuts, palm oil, cocoa, coconut, citrus fruits, maize, millet, cassava, yams and sugar cane. Nigeria also has a booming leather and textile industry, with industries located in Kano, Abeokuta, Kaduna, Onitsha, and Lagos.
As economic development occurs, the relative size of the agricultural sector usually decreases. Accordingly, Nigerian GDP originating in the agricultural sector shrank from 65.7 percent in FY 1959 to 30.9 percent by 1976. The overall economic decline reversed this trend, and by 1988, 39.1 percent of GDP was derived from agricultural activity.
The contribution of the agricultural sector increased 3.8 percent yearly between 1983 and 1988, and the percentage of export value in agriculture grew from 3 percent in 1983 to 9 percent in 1988, although much of this growth resulted from the fall in oil export receipts. Food production also increased rapidly during the 1980s, especially after exchange-rate reform restricted food imports in 1986.
Land Use, Soils, and Land Tenure
In 1990, estimates indicated that 82 million hectares out of Nigeria’s total land area of about 91 million hectares were arable. However, only about 34 million hectares (or 42 percent of the cultivable area) were being cultivated at the time. Much of this land was farmed under bush fallow, a technique whereby an area much larger than that under cultivation is left idle for varying periods to allow natural regeneration of soil fertility