NIGERIA: PLOUGHING A NEW PATH IN AGRIC
Before oil, Nigeria had oil. With oil were the crops groundnut (peanut), cocoa and rubber. These crops were cultivated in large quantities and exported to Europe and America in the pre-1960s and early ‘60s.
With military incursions into Nigerian government and the dependence of petroleum products as the foremost foreign exchange earner, attention to the agricultural sector dwindled. Nigeria’s groundnut pyramids disappeared, the oil palm plantations vanished and farming went back to a subsistent level. With a burgeoning population, it became increasingly difficult to feed the teeming masses and the country resorted to importing food to supplement the one grown at home.
With the military gone and a new democratic structure in place, the country is poised to regain her position in agriculture. The administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo has watered the ground in empowering Nigerian farmers and agro-allied investors to harness the country’s rich resources in producing food and raw materials for industries and export. Funding for agro allied investments have been made easier to get, with extension services provided to farmers at highly subsidized rates to ensure heavy yields at harvest time. Agric banks make loans available to farmers while fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and planting technologies are made available at subsidized rates by the government.
Working in hand with the farmers is the Nigerian Export Promotion Council which helps to find buyers for the food and cash crops from Nigeria.
Land is being provided at reasonable terms for use for large scale farming. Government has encouraged foreign agric investors with remarkable results. For instance farmers from Southern African countries have found home in Nigeria where they have started operations to produce.
The agricultural initiative of the Obasanjo Administration has seen to the restriction of the importation of some types of food and cash crops to encourage local farmers to compete.
The highly fertile Nigerian soil makes it easy to cultivate the following:
Cassava, Yams, Melon, Maize, Millet, Sorghum, Cowpeas, Bananas (plantains included) Palm oil, Groundnuts.
Nigeria’s cash crops include:
Tobacco, Groundnuts, Cocoa beans, Rubber, Gum Arabic, Kola nuts, Beniseed, Cotton, Soyabean, Palm kernel, Cashew nuts
Nigerian manufacturers find it convenient to grow their raw materials here. Hence there are cotton farms, orange plantations, tea plantations (on Mambilla Plateau) and coconut groves all sources of raw materials for Nigerian industries.
Opportunities also abound in the cultivation of various species of fish. Fish farming is on the rise in Nigeria with several hundred thousands of tons of fish harvested annually in the country.
The grasslands of the Northern part of the country are ideal for ranching and the rearing of cattle and other livestock.