Ask research to generate more technologies against dumping
Stakeholders have advised government to as a matter of urgency quickly reposition its agricultural policies so as to be able to properly harness the economic potentials in the new African Continental-free Trade Areas (AfCFTA) pact that President Mohammadu Buhari signed recently.
This was the major take-home from a meeting organised by Agricultural Policy Research Network (APRNet) at Abuja recently.
The stakeholders, from all strata of agricultural professions including research institutes, academia, media, farmers and civil societies pointed out that the new improved technologies must be intensified by the Research Institutes so as to checkmate Nigeria becoming a dumping ground.
One of the stakeholders, president, National Association of Nigerian Traders and member of Presidential Steering Committee on AFCFTA, Barrister Ken Ukoha, advised that Nigeria must put in place new policies that would galvanise research innovations beyond subsistence farming with competitiveness in capacity, adding that the research institutes must wake up to this challenge, otherwise the country would be flooded with goods from other countries who are also members to the agreement.
Barrister Ukoha who presented a paper titled‘’ Agenda setting for the new ministers on the interventions expected by farmers and Nigerian traders towards food security in Nigeria, persepective from the agricultural council in Nigeria,’’ stressed that Nigeria’s improved technologies must target commercial production along all the value chain of crops and livestock adding that there was limit percentage of tariff barrier we can please on goods (10%) entering into the country under this agreement since Nigeria’s produce too would be going out as well.
Ukoha lamented that the feasibility of Nigerian agricultural export market in the AfCFTA is in doubt because research institutes capacity also are in doubt, and stressed that import would be higher than export if many issues were not immediately fixed like the review of the new agricultural promotions policy of 2015 due to expire by the end of 2019 and New Economic Growth and Recovery Plan of the Federal Government.
While quoting data from 2017 informal trade in the country, he said 90% of the transactions both export and import were from agriculture with 16.4 billion dollars shared in seven billion and 9.4 billion dollars respectively adding that this amount was too low to take Nigeria to AfCFTA as South Africa (SA) was leading with about 31.3 billion dollars because she processes and adds value to her exports with market outlet across the African countries, as Nigeria alone has about 30 Shoprite’s outlets loaded with 67% of their imported agricultural produce including eggs.
He pondered further on how prepared Nigeria is in this competitive economic game among 54 African countries where you have limitation of percentage of tariff barrier you can place on goods cum limited laboratory to perform sanitary and phyto-sanitary tests to protect produce for time-bound preservations especially the perishable produce that required cooling vans for easy conveyance to the ports.
The traders’ boss also advised that the three ministers of Agriculture, Trade, Industry and Investment and Finance should be ready to institute institutional frame work that would make Nigeria able to favourably compete in the AFCFTA agreement.
However, some of the stakeholders responded to the issue of improved science innovation by raising the matter of research institutes which presently contends with epileptic power supply, zero funding to extension services cum policy disconnect and non implementation, inadequate funding and late budgetary releases, which means that the whole season must have gone before money is made available to effective performance of scientists; which cannot be compared to what operated in other foreign countries where researchers are consistently funded in addition to grants from donors.
The Director of planning, from Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), Mr. Yarama Ndirpaya pointed that Nigeria has a robust scientists in the agricultural research institutes with global competitive skills, but pointed that the environment in which these scientists work cannot give the kind of service delivery like their counterparts from more serious nations where consistence funding to research and other complimentary facilities are effectively made available.
Ndirpaya said that he had visited many of these foreign research institutes and discovered they have a better scientific environment than what we have here, but not better scientists stressed the need for time bound budget to every necessary research asking ‘’ what is the funding in Nigeria for research’’
The two farmers that spoke faulted the implementation policy of the government in agriculture with specific accusation to the failure of Nigerian Incentive Based Risk Sharing System( NIRSAL) to address the need of farmer, as they submitted that effective policy with evaluation and monitoring must be embraced to develop the sector.