World Bank says Nigeria is tragically living on borrowed time

World Bank

On Thursday, at the Agriculture Summit Africa in Abuja, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, World Bank’s Senior Agriculture Economist, said that Nigeria is tragically living on borrowed time.

“Nigeria is tragically living on borrowed time, a typical case of robbing Peter to pay,” he said.

He noted that the neglect of the agricultural section over oil, has proved to be a disaster, adding that if Nigeria had held on to its market share in palm oil, cocoa, groundnut and cotton, the country would have being earning at least $10billion annually from agriculture.

He expressed disappointment that Nigeria is now the world’s largest food importers. According to him, in 2016 alone, Nigeria spent over $1billion importing wheat ($965million); rice ($39.7million) and sugar ($100.2million).

He further noted that the decision to spend $655million on fish importation is financially irresponsible considering the marine resources in Nigeria.

Mr. Oredipe said that despite Nigeria’s great agricultural potential, Nigeria has lost its place in the global community when it come to agriculture.

“None of the above transactions (importation of rice, fish, sugar) is fiscally, economically or politically sustainable.

“For instance, each time we spend money to import rice, Nigerian local rice farmers are negatively affected in terms of morale, sales, and realisable income.”

“In the 1960s, we had glory. That glory was visible and significant for the global community to recognise and applaud.

“Nigeria accounted for 42 per cent of the world’s exports of shelled groundnuts. Our total export volume was 502, 000 MT.

“This declined to 356 MT by 2016. Nigeria lost her leadership position and was overtaken by the USA, China, and Argentina.

“Nigeria was also the largest exporter of palm oil in the world and accounted for 27 per cent of the global export volume for palm oil.

“Indonesia alone recorded US$16.5bn, 54.5 per cent of total palm oil exports. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not listed among the first 15 as at this moment.”

“Food producing factories in Western world, Far East Asia and other countries employ millions of young people to produce and export food. “This is a source of livelihood and it helps the workers to live well and go to school.

He further noted that the Nigerian Government must articulate a clear vision to achieve a hunger-free Nigeria through agriculture.

The rural economy must be revived by transforming Nigeria into an agriculturally industrialised economy.

“We also need to realise that it is extremely difficult to produce, process and market at the same time. It is better to specialise and pick a certain aspect to focus on.”

“The most fundamental cause of low investment in agriculture is the low expected profitability, which stems from low productivity.  Additional factors contributing to this situation include an unfavourable business climate; infrastructural deficiencies; limited access and use of long-term business credit; and the high risk of investment,” he added.

He also spoke about tackling post-harvest losses for perishables. For instance he said Nigeria produces 1.8million MT of tomatoes yearly which is 68% of the production in West Africa. However, 45% of this production is lost yearly due to post-harvest losses.

Yet, Nigeria still spend N16billion annually on tomato paste importation from China and Italy.

“We need to find better ways to link farmers with off-takers and processers. Our off-takers imports food items being produced by our farmers because they are not aware of the products in the local market.”

The event which was sponsored by Sterling Bank had many dignitaries in attendance including; the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri; Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Paulen Talen; Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu; Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Asue Ighodalo; and the Managing Director of Sterling Bank Plc, Abubakar Suleiman

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