THE basic fundamental of all economies is agriculture and all industrial nations know this. That their economies are on solid rock is basically because they have galvanized their agricultural potentials, which is also the offshoot of their industrial development That is why concerned citizens of Nigeria have continued to warn on the dangers of continued dependence In the nation on crude oil which is today the mainstay and sustaining source of the Nigerian economy.
THE traditional focus of the Nigerian economy before the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity was agriculture and it played a fundamental role in shaping the economy of the nation and regions as Nigeria was then constituted in its immediate post independence era.
IN the 1960s, each region of the country was noted for producing some cash crops such as cocoa, groundnut and palm oil as well as rubber in co quantities. Basically, the Wet tern region, now the political South West except Lagos which was the Federal Capital, was noted for producing cocoa in large commercial quantities for export. The revenue from cocoa helped in shaping the infrastructure and economic environment of then Western Nigeria and its legacies and landmarks were -very very visible, as they affected virtually all aspects of life of the people.
IN the Northern region, groundnut was the mainstay of the economy, to the extent that the volume produced in the region was typified by the “groundnut pyramid”. It symbolized the success of the crop as a veritable earner of revenue which impacted economically on the life of the people.
IN the Eastern region, palm oil was its predominant feature and similarly, it was a success in boosting the economic atmosphere of the country and tile region. Interestingly, it is now an irony that Nigeria has been relegated to the background in palm oil production and has been overtaken by Malaysia, a country which took the Nigerian specimen of the plant, palm kernel, and adapted it to its own climatic condition and is today a leading producer of palm oil, which is a major derivative of palm kernel.
SIGNIFICANTLY, the Midwest region was noted for its rubber plantation and was quite a huge success as the crop played its role as a major economic transformation agent to shore up principally the economy of the region.
WE are concerned that there is slow progress in returning to the traditional focus of reviving these cash crops as major sources of revenue for the Federal Government.
HOWEVER, we are aware that not too long ago, the Federal Government launched the Cocoa Rebirth Initiative, as launch pad to regenerate interest in the crop and encourage farmers who have abandoned the plant to come back on the scene to make cocoa play its role in the national economy.
THE NIGERIAN OBSERVER implores the Federal Government to similarly create avenues for other cash crops as well as sensitise farmers to take proactive action towards their cultivation.
WHILE the Federal Government has shown the interest to refocus attention to agriculture, there appears to he so much disinterest in the way it has pursued the goal.
THERE is no conscious effort to empower small scale Earners to undertake mechanized farming for greater yields, as this is still the exclusive preserve of the elite farmers. Thus, farmers who are interested in expansion have no way of coping with the financial demands to undertake mechanized farming. Access to bank loans is uncertain with high interest rate, serving as enough scare to discourage the desire for any expansion.
WHILE the banks may have played significant roles in the past in assisting farmers, they did so purely on the initiative of the individual farmers and therefore expect in the new arrangement as already envisaged, a friendly lending terms that will encourage investment in the agricultural sector. THE NIGERIAN OBSERVER now calls on the Federal Government to consider an upward review of allocation to the agricultural sector. Amounts always allocated in the budget have been a pointer of the genuineness of government’s commitment to the agricultural sector.
WE assert that improving the national agricultural output should be devoid of any prohibition that will limit access to the fund by small scale farmers whose contributions to agricultural development for part of the concerted effort of the production chain that will lift the nation out of the continued dependence on oil.