FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent submission at a lecture in Ibadan, Oyo State, that government has no business in agriculture should be commended by stakeholders in the agriculture sector. Most agricultural projects of government, after a couple of years, fail, and the simple reason for this is that government does not have the will to achieve success in business. This is why capitalism is thriving in most of the advanced countries.
However, having said this, it is the responsibility of government to ensure that businesses fluorish in the country. Agribusiness is like any other business, and if the atmosphere is not conducive for a business to grow well, then it won’t be a success.
First, there is the need for government to support agribusiness owners with fund. The biggest challenge we are facing in this country as regard to agriculture is the lack of financial support for farmers.
We keep hearing that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and some commercial banks have set aside certain sums of money to support those in the agribusiness sector, but the terms to access such funds are usually unbearable for farmers.
The commercial banks in particular do not differentiate between an oil and gas company and a small scale agricultural business; they subject all firms to the same interest rate. Nigeria has the landmass for a prosperous agricultural industry; we cannot compete with the developed countries in technology or the service sector, but we can advance our agricultural sector, thereby exporting to other countries.
Also, multiple permits are killing those in agribusiness. Whenever a small livestock farmer sets-up his business, the following day, officials from the local and state governments will come around, asking for certain permits. There is the need for government to realise that small businesses need time to blossom.
One good thing about agriculture is that it can absorb all unemployed youths in the country, but we are yet to get it right in this sector.
I am happy that Chief Obasanjo, as a farmer, tried his best for agribusiness while he was in power. Today, all the gains we made during his tenure are fast disappearing. I could remember we were supplying cassava to China, while chicken farms grew exponentially while he held sway as the nation’s number one citizen, but things are not looking positive in the sector these days.
I hope President Muhammadu Buhari will focus on agriculture so that we can reduce unemployment, while also curbing the huge forex we pay for importing food.
- Dr Taju Alalalde,