N138bn agric budget: FG not serious to diversify the economy —Stakeholders

Stakeholders in the agricultural sector have said the government has not shown seriousness to diversify the economy from oil dominated to non-oil.

Reaction came when Nigerian Tribune sought the opinion of stakeholders on the N138 billion budget proposal for agriculture which President Muhammadu Buhari presented to the National Assembly recently.

The stakeholders said if the government was serious about the diversification of the economy, more money would have been allocated to the agricultural sector.

The national president, Oil Palm Growers Association of Nigeria, Igwe Hilary Uche, said if the government was serious with agriculture, the budgetary allocation should not be reviewed downwards, instead it should be going up.

“It appears they have not really known what agriculture will do to this country, because sometimes they will behave as if they have awaken to develop agriculture but they are just paying lip service to the sector.

“If they are serious with agriculture, its budget should be higher than any other sector of the economy, even if it is not higher. It should not be going down instead it should be going up for improvement and expansion,” Uche said.

Recall that in 2018, the budgetary allocation to agriculture was N203 billion, in 2019, it dropped to N138 billion, while in 2020 it maintained the N138 billion allocation.

Also, the national president, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Adeola Adegoke, says it’s pertinent for the National Assembly to sit with the Executive and see reasons why more funds should be allocated to the agricultural sector

“When you look at it, if we are serious with our diversification, a large percentage is supposed to be allocated to agriculture. Like we have seen the statistics, there is a downward reduction in the allocation to agriculture.

“There are a lot of issues that need attention in the agricultural sector and I believe that what the executive proposed is not encouraging, at the same time we still believe that the National Assembly should see how they would sit with the Executive and see reasons there should be more funding for agriculture”, he added.

The president of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Mr Ezekiel Mam while speaking to journalists, said the N83 billion allocated for capital projects for the ministry was below expectation.

He said by the virtue of the importance of agriculture to all human endeavours, it should have been  allotted the highest amount.

He said developed countries like the US have food sufficiency because they put more money into agriculture adding that  Nigeria must emulate them for there to be food sufficiency in the country.

He said, “the budget is below expectation. Agriculture should be given more money because most sub-sectors like poultry are capital-intensive.

“Whatever you do if you do not have food you are vulnerable. So, for us as an association, agriculture should have the highest budget.

“Soviet Union collapsed because of lack of food sufficiency, so whatever we do without feeding our people, we will end up creating security and health concerns.”

Chairman, Follhope Nigeria Limited, an agricultural value chain company, Chief Emmanuel Ogunnaike, in his own reaction said that  he can not say whether the money  voted for agriculture is enough or insufficient.

“What I think matters most is for the budget to be properly implemented. The masses and genuine farmers in particular should feel the impact. Year in year out, there had been huge some of money voted for agriculture, but we are yet to get the best for our agriculture sector.

“The price of farm produce should come down so that an average Nigerian can have purchasing power to buy whatever he or she wants in the market.”

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