Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State has called for a ban on the export of primary farm produce as part of strategies to grow local productions and enhance the value chains of the country’s agricultural investments.
He said only innovative ventures in agriculture could make farm produce to be converted into secondary products, adding that Nigeria must create strategies that would make agriculture to be attractive to a new generation of young Nigerians before farming could be viable option towards economic diversification.
The Osun State Governor spoke Friday evening at the Hotel Presidential, Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital at the annual conference of the Nigerian Guild of Editors.
The theme of the 2016 conference of the Editors, which also had in attendance Governor of Rivers State, Mr. Nyisom Wike, former Governor of Ogun, Aremo Olusegun Osoba, and representatives of governors of Lagos, Niger, Bayelsa, Bauchi and Plateau states, is Economic Diversification: Agriculture as option for a prosperous Nigeria.
Aregbesola, who held his audience on the edge of their seats with disturbing statistics, showed that Nigeria has not shown serious efforts towards making farming a viable venture.
“We should stop exporting primary products and start adding value. The value of a kilogramme of exported cocoa beans increases 5,000 per cent by the time it comes back as chocolate,” the governor said.
Charging Nigerian agricultural scientists, technologists, nutritionists and other allied experts to be innovative, Aregbesola lamented that for ages, Nigerians have failed to improve the varieties of foods that are obtainable for their various farm produce.
Aregbesola stated, “Our foods have remained the same from time immemorial. It is the same type of foods we derive from our crops in the past that we still do now. Nutritionists, food scientists and food technologists should find better uses for our crops.”
He said Nigeria’s agriculture must be directed towards producing what the country needs and not what it can only export.
“The orientation of our agriculture towards producing raw materials, especially cash crops, for the industries in Europe and the America must be reversed from producing what we don’t use to producing what we use.
“Agriculture is needed primarily for food production. Only well fed people can drive economic development. Good nutrition is the primary basis of good health. Good nutrition therefore drives productivity in two ways; first through good health and secondly the unbounded energy and confidence that come from it,” he added.
He pointed out that Nigeria’s agriculture products are non-competitive owing because to low productivity adding “While Nigeria and much of Africa are leading producers of cassava for instance, the traditional yield per hectare has been around 15 tonnes (Nigeria) and 10 tonnes (Africa) while global average in 2010 was put at 12.5 tonnes.”
He went further, “However, India’s average yield in 2010 was 34.8 tonnes per hectares and Thailand’s yield is reported to be a whopping 120 tonnes per hectare.”
He reminded the country of the only way through which agriculture could be profitable adding that it is only when Nigerian farmers become big suppliers and feeders of the manufacturing industries that their ventures can make them wealthy.
He said, “Agriculture provides raw materials for economic production in the food and beverage industry; agrochemical industry; building and construction industry; pharmaceutical industry; textile, clothing, leather and footwear industry; paper products and printing industry; and rubber products.”
Informing his audience how Osun has ignited the profit drive in agriculture, the governor said, “We put in place in Osun a deliberate policy of food production in contrast with cash crop production. We have revived the cocoa processing industry in Osun with an eye of producing globally competitive chocolates and other cocoa products.”
He said the school feeding program of his administration is not just about education but about an aggressive promotion of agriculture.
“Our empowerment and education programmes are integrated with agriculture. We also pioneered in a sense, the home grown school feeding programme (OMEALS), in which sumptuous meals are provided for 252,000 elementary school pupils on every school day. We say ‘in a sense’ because the programme had existed in an attenuated form prior to our coming, but our administration gave it a new identity and prominence. Because of its success in Osun, it has now been nationally adopted by the Federal Government.”