Abuja – The Feed Africa Advocacy Network(FAAN), an agriculture based Non Governmental Organisation(NGO), says the allocation of N83 billion to the agricultural sector in 2020 Budgetary was abysmal and needed to be revisited.
The Executive Director of the network, Mr Chika Okeke, who made this known at a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, said more funds needed to be allocated to the sector to actualise government’s diversification programme.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports President Muhammadu Buhari during the presentation of the 2020 Budget on Oct.8., announced that the sum of N83billion had been allocated for capital projects in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Ministry of Works and Housing got the highest allocation with the sum of N262 billion, followed by Ministry of Power with N127 billion.
Others are, Universal Basic Education Commission with N112 billion, Defence-N100 billion and Zonal Intervention Projects-N100bn.
Okeke called for a supplementary budget to meet some of the critical needs required to stimulate growth of the sector.
“The 2020 budget for the sector does not reflect government’s pronouncements about taking agriculture seriously.
“The budget is not sufficient. It is no where close to what we expected. It is not close to where we are coming from and it will not take us to where we are going to.
“There is a need for a supplementary allocation for agriculture if we must work the talk of diversification of the economy.The federal government needs to revisit the allocation to the sector.
“We want the National Assembly to as a matter of urgency, set up process to allocate more funds to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and other agricultural projects that cut across other MDAs.
“Allocation of about N500 billion is not even enough for the sector because that is less than 10 per cent of what the budget is.
“So, we need to do more as a country. Africa cannot feed itself if Nigeria is not food sufficient. So for as long as Nigeria continues to sneeze as far as budget is concerned, Africa will catch cold, ” he said.
He said it was worrisome that at a time when other climes were catching in on new opportunities in the agricultural sector by allocating huge budgets, Nigeria’s budget was on the decline.
He noted that as a signatory to the Maputo Declaration in Mozambique in 2003, it was important for Nigeria to go beyond mere talks to action.
“Agriculture got 1.2 per cent of the 2016 Budget. In 2017 it got 1.86 per cent to about 2.23 in 2018 to 1.56 in 2019 and now we are going far below that to 1.4 per cent.
“Out of the 2020 budget of N10.33 trillion the agriculture sector was allocated N83 billion in capital expenditure which is about 1.4 per cent of the entire national budget.
“This is ridiculous and there is no reason why Nigeria, as we approach the last lap of the Sustainable Development Goal(SDG), would meet the goal 2020.
“There is nothing to explain the fact that at this time in this circumstance, Nigeria is still allocating a paltry 1.4 per cent of our national budget to agriculture. The continuous decrease shows a sustained decline.
“The 2018 to 2019 appropriation represented a decrease from about 78 per cent to about 55 per cent. The 2018 budget represented about 2.23 per cent which is a far cry from where Nigeria is supposed to be as far as the Maputo declaration 2003 is supposed to be.
“We are making this call to ask the federal government to take concrete steps by making adequate investment in the agricultural sector.
“Nigeria today has a population of about 200 million people. Expending about 1.4 per cent from our national budget to stimulate agricultural development is not acceptable,” he said.
He added: “This country will not go close to achieving the SDG goals if we continue to pay lip service to the agricultural sector by virtue of giving almost next to nothing to the sector.
“There is a need for a supplementary budget because the country is currently responding to the border closure. The prices of good stuff are going up.
“Meanwhile, the World Bank estimates that Sub Sahara Africa needs about 45 billion dollars investment in agriculture annually, while only about seven billion dollars is being invested in the region annually.
“For Africa to feed itself, Nigeria first needs to be self sufficient. We need investment to stimulate key sectors of the economy as far as agricultural value chain is concerned.”
The executive director called for sustained effort by government and other stakeholders to fix the challenges bedeviling the sector, including inactive research institutes, poor infrastructure among others.
He also called for more subsidies to farmers for improved productivity.
“Our research institutions are almost gone comatose. All of them are getting close to nothing to stimulate research and development and without research development we will not make any meaningful development as a nation.
“Be it in quality seeds, animal feeds formulation, soil management and all of that. N83 billion is not even sufficient for the research and development sector talk more of the entire sector.
“Another area that needs serious attention is mechanisation. Nigeria with almost a population of 200 million,has less than N50,000 tractors.
“It is estimated that we need about N1.5 trillion in investment to be able to bridge the gap between where we are now in terms of the number of tractors to where we ought to be.
“Let us look at the analogy of the top five countries that are supposed to be the most populous countries by 2050. India with a population of 1.3 billion and expected to be 1.6 billion in 2050 already has about 2.5 million tractors.
“China with a population of 1.3 billion has 1.5 million tractors. Nigeria with a projected population going to 400 million by 2050 cannot boast of 50,000 tractors nationwide.
“Even in the use of fertiliser, Nigeria is the least. India uses 165.5 kg of fertiliser per hectare, China-503.3kg US-138.6kg, Brazil is about 186.
“It will shock us to know that for Nigeria, on the average, our fertiliser use per hectare is about 9.7kg. How can we stimulate productivity and yield with such poor usage of fertiliser.
“The US has about 4.5 million tractors with a population of about 300 million. Brazil has about 900,000 tractors with a population of 232 million.
“So, we need to allocate more funds to stimulate any meaningful development in the sector.”
According to him, subsistence farming will not get Nigeria where it ought to be in terms of food sufficiency, saying that to attain that, there was a need to allocate more funds to stimulate agricultural mechanisation.
He further called on the federal government to make great investment in infrastructures that support storage to avoid post harvest losses.
He noted that nearly 40 per cent of tomatoes produced in Nigeria is lost after harvest.
According to him, Nigeria is spending over N1 billion annually in importation of tomato paste in spite of being number one producer of tomato in Africa.
He said it was important for the federal government to understand that “Nigerians are hungry and agriculture is the hope of the country as far as non oil revenue is concerned.”
On border closure, the executive director commended government for taking such bold step.
He advised government not to give heed to pleas to reopen the borders until the neighboring countries gave concrete commitment to helping check smuggling of goods into Nigeria.
He called on government to create enabling environment to boost local production of goods and at affordable price.(NAN