The World Bank’s Senior Agriculture Economist, Adetunji Oredipe, says Nigeria’s neglect of the agricultural sector has cost the country about $10 billion annually.
He spoke on Thursday in a keynote address at the 2- day Agriculture Summit Africa held under the theme: “Agriculture: Your piece of the Trillion – Dollar Economy.”
The summit was organised by Sterling Bank in partnership with the World Bank, Central Bank of Nigeria, Unilever, AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited, and International Labour Organisation.
The event is a platform for private and public investors to discuss opportunities in Africa’s agricultural sector and harnessing the opportunities for development and wealth creation.
It had over 1000 delegates in attendance. Its first edition in 2018 was themed: Co-creating a Sustainable Nigerian Economy Through Rural Agricultural Enterprise.
Mr Oredipe said: “The wanton neglect of the agricultural sector when the economy became extremely dependent on oil has proven to be both a disaster and calamity.
“If Nigeria had held to its market shares in palm oil, cocoa, cotton and groundnut, it would be earning today at least $10billion per year from these commodities,” he said.
He said Nigeria used to be one of the major players in agriculture in the global market, but has lost the status to other nations.
“Nigeria used to account for 42 per cent of the world export of Shell groundnut; our total export volume was about 502,000 million tonnes in that year. This declined to about 356,000 million tons by 2016,” he said.
He said the major problem Nigeria had then was Aflatoxins, a carcinogen, which it did not bother to fix, hence, losing its prime position to the USA, China and Argentina.
Also, Mr Oredipe said Nigeria was the largest exporter of palm oil in the world, accounting for 27 per cent of the global export volume for the commodity.
“But unfortunately, Nigeria was not recorded among the top 15 nations in the world as at 2018, while Malaysia earned $8.7 billion and Indonesia recorded $16.5 bn from exports of palm oil.
“The total global export volume for palm oil by Nigeria was about 167,000 million tonnes in 1961. This declined to 8000million tonnes in 2016 and to over 42.1million tonnes of recent. Malaysia and Indonesia took over using the palm oil seedlings obtained from this country,” he said.
The Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, was represented at the event by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri.
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Other dignitaries at the event include the Minister of Women Affairs, Paulen Talen; Governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu; Chairman of Sterlin Bank Plc, Asue Ighodalo; and the Managing Director of Sterling Bank Plc, Abubakar Suleiman.
About 30 African countries sent delegates to the summit.
One of the discussants of the panel session, the Vice President, Government Relations of Olam, Ade Adefeko, said efficiency has always been the problem of commodity exchanges in Africa. He said an intermediary is needed.
The Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Tallen, said the Nigerian economy will grow if women in agriculture are properly supported.
“I’m advocating that the Governor of the Central Bank should give a minimum free loan of 50 per cent to women in the country. It is on record that when you give loans to women, they use it well,” she said.
She said empowering the women means empowering the family, society, community and the nation at large.