Nigerian Agricultural Transformation or Lack Of It – By: Nasir Yammama


Global agricultural production is far from monolithic and involves many different production methods ranging from high-tech and high-yield models to low-yield subsistence agriculture, with many variations in between. While Nigeria’s primary production is not advanced, the sheer size of the sector means there is still abundant production. However, the country’s agricultural processing sector also reflects this deficiency.

I am of the opinion that primary production must necessarily be improved in order to see gains in the processing and marketing of basic products. When it comes to the agricultural economy, we need to understand that transportation and processing infrastructure will only become ubiquitous when there are viable markets for our produce. Goods will move by rail, truck or sea, and transport networks will concentrate in agricultural regions only when agricultural products meet the quantitative and qualitative specifications of a real market.

In his famous Gates Notes, Bill Gates wrote about how technology is transforming agriculture and the fight against poverty. He argued that “the rails and roads that would get crops from farm to market do not exist, because the market does not want the crops that farmers grow in the way and volumes that they grow. Farmers are therefore isolated, without money and without a voice that the market can hear. The same can be said of Nigeria’s agricultural processing infrastructure deficit, where local, regional and global markets are not interested in Nigerian end products and as such there is no adequate investment to develop critical infrastructure for global standard processing.

Here is an overview of some agricultural commodity industries and their prosperity in terms of processing infrastructure and markets:

Cereals and grains

Cereal crops such as wheat, sorghum, rice, maize and millet are raw materials for flour mills, breweries, bread, biscuits and confectionery. A great opportunity has been seized and can be said to have created immense benefits for many actors in the rice value chain, with hundreds of rice mills in many parts of Nigeria. However, there is still a lot of work to be done to perfect Nigerian rice pitting, polishing and packing technologies to compete internationally. Meanwhile, the flour milling, biscuit and confectionery industries have made very little progress in recent years and can even be said to have really stagnated, except for a few.

Roots and Tubers

Cassava and yam are the main crops in this category. Well-processed cassava chips can be exported. Thailand, for example, is the second largest producer of cassava after Nigeria, but today it is the leading exporter of starch. It also exports other cassava products such as alcohol and monosodium glutamate. Cassava is also a good raw material for the formulation of feeds for large ruminants and pigs.

Vegetable oil

Nigeria is a major producer of oil palm, groundnuts, soybeans, sesame and cotton. These are good sources of vegetable oil. We have all heard the legend that Malaysia got its first palm seedlings from Nigeria in the 1960s. In 2003, their total planted area was 3.70 million hectares. Today, Malaysia is the largest exporter of palm oil with 6.5 million tonnes representing 60.2% of total world palm oil exports. Nigeria imports bleached palm oil from Malaysia in the form of vegetable oil. Nigeria’s share in world palm oil trade fell from 60.2% in 1961 to 1.5% in 1999. The situation has not improved since then as we are a net importer of palm oil. vegetable oil. Other peanut, cottonseed and soybean oils are processed locally. The capacity of oil mills is insufficient because the country is largely dependent on imported vegetable oil.

Fruits and vegetables

It is common to see heaps of rotting oranges, mangoes, papayas, tomatoes, bananas, plantains, pineapples and other vegetables during their glut periods at harvest time. In certain periods, these fruits or their products become very rare and expensive. This shows that our industrial capacity to process these fruits is insufficient or absent. A lot of investment is needed in fruit processing to overcome seasonal losses due to overabundance of fruit production. It is quite obvious that our processing capacity in this sector is below average and needs to be improved.

Drinks, tea and coffee

Beverage industries based on cocoa products are well supplied with products such as Bournvita, Milo, Ovaltine, Choco, etc. they are largely established by multinational corporations. The country’s tea and coffee industries compete favorably in international markets. However, investments are needed at various stages in the production and processing of these products. The country is flooded with Asian products despite a huge obsession with local medicinal plants.

meat industry

The meat industry is not yet developed or standardized. The butchers’ practices of 50 years ago are still in effect today. Standards ranging from hygiene to slaughterhouse storage and transport are substandard, making competition in international markets almost impossible. Smaller and less endowed countries such as Botswana, Malawi, Namibia and Ethiopia export meat to European Union (EU) countries as they ensure sanitation and modernization of the meat industry. meat.

fish industry

Nigeria is blessed with fresh and marine fish and other animals. Unfortunately, we are still a net importer of fish. There is a need for heavy investments in this sector in order to participate in the international fish market. Most Nigerian consumers today depend on imported frozen fish.

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