Agriculture, as known, is the largest employer of labour, it accounts for over 70 per cent of the nation’s work force with youths and women dominating in total.
In the past, the government treated agriculture as a development project which was primarily aimed at alleviating poverty instead of taking it as a business.
About four years ago, the government realising the untapped potential of the agricultural sector, took some strategic steps to make agriculture a business by providing a level playing ground for the private sector to invest in the sector.
Agribusiness which was introduced later, over the years recorded over $5.6 billion private sector commitment in agriculture.
According to a resource person at the Public Validation of the Annual Progress Report on New Alliance and Grow Africa Agreement, Dr Manson Nwafor, in 2013, the government made a commitment to complete 27 projects by 2016 which will assist private sectors and development partners to invest in agriculture.
He said the development partners on their own made a commitment to spend in aid $500 million between 2013 and 2016, while the private sector committed to invest $3.8 billion in 10 years.
Currently, the private sector and the development partners have done remarkably well in meeting up with their commitments, but the government has not done up to 50 per cent of its commitment records reveal.
According to him “as at today, government was meant to complete 26 tasks, but only 9 have been completed which is about 35 per cent achievement rate of what government was supposed to do to make the environment more suitable for investment.
It is obvious that the government need to step up its action if it really want to diversify the economy using agriculture as the driver.
There is need to revisit the commitments to ascertain if there are things to change or improved on so that the key players will continue to live up to their commitments.
The process also need to be reviewed because sometimes the objective and target will be wonderful but the process may be faulty.
Nwafor also said the “New Alliance ultimate objective is to increase food, nutrition, security, the theory is that if private sector investment is increased, complemented with government expenditure, the objective can be achieved.”
He called on non-state actors to play the role of monitoring groups to monitor how the commitments made were fulfilled, make inputs and constructively criticise the process.
He also noted that a monitoring mechanism have also been put in place to monitor and evaluate relevant actors in agriculture investment.
Another stakeholder from the New Alliance, Arnaud Dornon, called for accountability among stakeholders and investors regarding the commitments made in the agricultural sector.
The government needs to formulate more policies that will further attract the private sector to invest in agriculture, there are other agricultural value chains that is still untapped.
There should be enough awareness campaign from the government, sustainable business policies should be put in place thereby providing a good environment for businesses to thrive.
On more private sector investment, Segun Falade, who is a manager in Nigeria Flour Mill, said from 2012 till date, private sector have made tremendous investment in the agricultural sector.
Falade, also said that the Nigeria Flour Mill, currently have made a N35 billion investment in sugar production using our local sugarcane.
“From what we have seen in the last couple of years, especially from 2012 up till now, there are quite a lot of improvement in the investment that have been coming in the agriculture space by the private sector,” he said.
The Chairman of Nigerian Agribusiness Group (NABG) Emmanuel Ijewere said good business environment attracts private sectors to invest.
Ijewere also said that Nigeria is currently in rehabilitation centre because it was carried away with oil boom which made it become addicted to oil.
His words: “A private investor goes to look for where he will invest, if you make the place attractive, the Private investor will invest. Nigeria population is an advantage to attract businessmen to invest. It is all about establishing partnership with government to make the environment much more conducive”.
The government have have a role to play to attract more investors into the country’s agricultural sector which the government is currently work towards to create jobs for the youths and women.
Some policies needs to be reviewed while some needs to be strengthened so that private investors will find Nigeria attractive to invest, thereby increase the nation’s GDP and achieving self sufficiency in food production.