“We all know the problems faced by the agricultural sector in Nigeria, everyone knows. What should we do, what should we be doing to solve the problems? This should be our focus in this event”. This is the summery of the opening statement of Ms Helen Emore, CEO Anty Helen Foods Processing Limited who moderated the Agribusiness Dialogue Session organized by the British-American Tobacco Nigerian Foundation and Enterprise Development Center in the just concluded Entrepreneurship Week.
The program which was opened by the Commissioner of Agriculture Mr Wasiu gbolahan Lawal and Professor Chidi Ibe who delivernerd the keynote speech, also had a crop of experienced personalities in agribusiness as panel of discussants. They included
- Fatai Afolabi – Managing Consultant and CEO Foremost Development Services limited
- Mr Timilehin OjeMakinde – CEO Timiafrican Snails
- Mrs Aramide Gansalo – Director of Agribusiness, Lagos Ministry of Agriculture
The dialogue which had the theme; “Agribusiness in Nigeria: the Myth, the Facts and the Opportunities”. was exhaustively discussed by the Panelists who truly exposed some critical myths in the minds of people. Some of them are that
‘Farmers are poor – ie farming is synonymous with poverty’ is a myth. The fact is that farming is big business and farmers are rich
‘Agricultural system in Nigeria is poor’ is a myth. The fact is that the system in itself is not poor but the attention on it is poor.
Another myth is that ‘Nigeria don’t produce enough food’. The fact is that we produce enough food but we lose much of the food we produce to poor processing and poor transportation system.
The path to identifying the opportunities in agriculture as a whole is through the challenges that face the sector.
A major re-occurring challenge in the sector is lack of data – no access to information. The three Panelists and everyone agreed that there are no adequate information to help young people especially young graduates to cue in the different aspects of the agribusiness.
Price fluctuation was also marked as one of the major bane in the business of agribusiness as experienced in the cassava market where farmers went into cultivation of the crop because prices were high only for price to crash before harvest.
In the course of discussion, training programs and intervention programs that are all over the place being sponsored by the government both at the State and Federal level came into focus. From the Director of Agribusiness in the Lagos State Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Gasalo comes the fact that a lot of the youths being trained in these programs don’t stay after being empowered financially to continue in the business Then the question is as asked by the moderator, is the government actually doing what they are supposed to be doing?
The issue in this aspect is that Government do what they feel they should do without asking what the people want to be done for them. According to Fatai Afolabi, Government need to engage more with the people in their training and intervention programs.
Marketing of agricultural produce once again came up in the discussion. The need to harness marketing opportunities through platform where farmers can interact with buyers was highlighted. The Eko City Farmers’ Market billed to come on board soon is intended to serve this purpose. Taking it further, Mr Ojemakinde pressed that Government should incorporate agro product into their bilateral economic exchange with other countries sitting China as an example that can take our soybean in exchange for infrastructural development.