APART from oil and metals, agricultural produce come next as Nigeria’s biggest exports to foreign countries. We export cocoa, palm oil, cassava, cashew nuts, among others. It is funny that due to the fact that we cannot process these commodities at home, we export them raw, and the European and Asian buyers process the raw produce we sell to them, and they send it back to our country to sell.
If we look at it, these Europeans and Asians gain more through processing than what we gain when we export our raw agricultural produce. A good example is cocoa, which we sell its raw beans, but we import cocoa beverages.
Now, at a time when we are talking about diversification of the economy, we should start focusing on adding value to our agricultural produce through processing instead of exporting them raw. For example, cocoa and cashew nuts can be made into final products, and one good thing is that we have the population to consume these products.
What we will gain refining our agricultural produce for local consumption, and even export, will be greater than what we will gain exporting the raw materials. Our farmers will also make more money, as they will not be subjected to the global price of commodities which fluctuate every now and then.
In the case of cassava, which is our staple food, instead of exporting the commodity to China to be used to feed animals, we can make cassava flour for bread and garri from it. Cassava is also being used to make beer in the country today.
The administrations of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan worked extensively on using cassava to make bread, but the idea just didn’t fly among Nigerians due to the fact that we lack the technology to process cassava into flour in the country.
Achieving economic success is just a matter of right thinking, and what I am discussing is something that can make our economy prosper. If the government can enforce the inclusion of cassava in making flour for bread production, then there will be market for our cassava farmers. The view that cassava farmers do not really make profit on their produce will also be a thing of the past.
Having said that, I want us to focus on another agricultural venture, which is pig production; only a tiny percentage of Nigerians eat pork, but this is a meat that the Chinese people cannot do without. In fact, the price of pork determines the economy of the average Chinese family.
The Nigerian government can capitalise on this by signing an agreement with the Chinese government for us to be producing pork for the country. No matter how much pork we produce, the Chinese will consume them all. So the government can use this to tackle unemployment in the country by introducing pork estates for Nigerian youths to produce and then sell pork to China. At a period when the trade balance between China and Nigeria is so lopsided in favour of the former, then the Chinese will be favourably disposed to such an idea.
What I am saying in essence is that we should stop exporting agricultural commodities that are being consumed in the country, while we produce in commercial quantities those that are not popular among Nigerians. As said earlier, to develop the economy only needs the right thinking, as well as the political will, and I hope the current economic managers in the country can look into my humble submission.
- Dr Aina Akinola,
Ibadan, Oyo State.