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In pursuit of agric development

Published by The Nation on Wed, 05 May 2021

The greatest challenge of Lagos State Government is how to feed its large population expected to hit 22 million in few years. The most effective way to feed and improve the lives of millions in the state is to encourage them to support technology-led agriculture.To transform the sector, create jobs, raise income, reduce malnutrition, and kick-start the economy, the government has launched a fiveyeardevelopment road map amid high stakeholdersexpectations, DANIEL ESSIET reports.As Nigeria looks to curb its imports, in the face of declining state revenues, speeding up agricultural development has become imperative, given that the country seeks to diversify from oil.In most parts of Nigeria, agricultural transformation has not advanced as planned because their plans lacked key elements of translate the goals into reality.But that is not so in Lagos State which wants to capitalise on agricultural growth opportunities. Hence, the launch of a Five-Year Agricultural and Food Systems Roadmap (2021-2025) to chart a path for growth and sustainability last Thursday. Venue was the Intercontinental Hotel, Victoria Island.The launch was attended by Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commissioners, other officials and private sector operators.Sanwo-Olu said though agriculture represented one of the states lowest Gross Domestic Products (GDP) contributors, however, it is responsible for thousands of jobs. The sector has long been a major driver for export revenues, job creation and rural development. It is now also increasingly serving as a platform for value creation, manufacturing and social development.He projected that the total investments in the sector in the state would run to $10 billion in the next five years with the launch of the roadmap.He noted that Lagoscould no longer afford to rely exclusively on other states for its food, adding that it was time for the state to unlock its immeasurable agricultural potential through the implementation of the roadmap.According to him, the roadmap focuses on three pillars which are the growth of the upstream sector, growth of the midstream and downstream sectors as well as improvement of private sector participation.Our strategies for sustainable Agricultural Development shall focus on three pillars. Firstly, we will grow the upstream sector through interventions by leveraging technologies that are capable of lowering the cost of production of value chains such as fisheries, poultry, piggery, rice, vegetables and coconut with support from donor agencies.We will also focus on growing the midstream and downstream sectors that is value addition involving processing, handling, storage, cold chain, packaging, utilisation and commercialisation which are all important agricultural value chains by leveraging on the huge market with support from donor agencies.Lastly, we will improve on private sector participation by developing and initiating policies that will encourage more private investments in agriculture. This will include linking the private sector with business-friendly credits.The projection is that the total investment in the agricultural Sector from the government, private sector, donor agencies and development partners will run into over $10billion in the next five years. While we expect most of the investment to be private sector-driven, government will continue to provide the needed infrastructure while the private sector will be encouraged to lead the key projects, Sanwo-Olu said.He assured that the state would formulate policies that would encourage private sector investment in agriculture while providing robust market information systems for agricultural value chain actors for adequate planning and the circumvention of risks and uncertainties.The governor pointed out that the state had started the revamping of its Agricultural Land Holding Authority (ALHA) to support investments, adding that the coconut belt would also be strengthened with increased private sector involvement.Sanwo-Olu listed some landmark investments that the state had begun, which he noted would help with the smooth delivery of the roadmap, to include the Lagos State Aquatic Centre of Excellence (LACE) that would boost fish production from 20 to 80 per cent; the Imota Rice Mill; the Lagos Food Production Centre Avia, Igborosu-Badagry as well as other state-wide agriculture focused initiatives.I am excited about the wealth we will generate from our fecund land and coastal resources. The next five years will be productive, competitive, and transformational as Lagos State implements its agricultural roadmap. We are set to become the nations agricultural powerhouse, and I invite you to join us to make history.I am greatly encouraged by the interest already generated in the 5-Year Agricultural Roadmap and I hope it will be sustained and backed with concrete action on the part of our development partners and the international community. I assure you that the Lagos State Government is putting in place deliberate incentives to make your investment safe, secure, and profitable, he averred.Sanwo-Olu, therefore, urged potential and established stakeholders to partner with the state to transform the sector for food security, wealth generation, poverty eradication, economic diversification, rapid industrialisation, and accelerated socio-economic growth.Theroadmap aims to boost productivity and sector profitability, while looking to improve smallholders earnings.Already, the government has launched a number of large-scale projects, with the objective of modernising production methods through efficient irrigation and enhanced mechanisation, as well as raising value addition, particularly through the development of high-potential crops and agribusinesses.In Lagos, Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms. Abisola Olusanya, said the state has set ambitious goals to enable it to be recognised for high-quality agri-food products and value-added products.She noted that the roadmap focuses on the development of agricultural value chains where the state has competitive and comparative advantages to ensure that the states self-sufficiency in food production moves from 18 to 40 per cent in the next five years.To increase farm-productivity and yield, she noted that there would be consistent adoption of better crops, seed quality, irrigation techniques, crop diversification and value chains.In the future, hi-tech agriculture will gain more traction as one of the key drivers of economic growth. In an attempt to accomplish that goal, she said a series of incentive solutions and supportive policies had been released by the government to entice more domestic and foreign investment into hi-tech agriculture.Generally, the roadmap is focused on enhancing institutional linkages at the implementation level.Speaking on this, the Special Adviser for Works and Infrastructure, Aramide Adeyoye, an engineer, said it emphasises provision of infrastructure linkages as a basis for the development of agriculture across the state. She noted that the agriculture industry still has opportunities.Chairman, Chapel Hill Denham Group, Mr. Wale Edun, said the plan was capable of helping agri-businesses innovate and expand, enhancing rural economic development and increasing food security.He noted, however, that the sector needed investments to position it for accelerated business growth, stressing the need for the right mix of agri-finance services for the sector to be successful.He said there should be financial programmes to help producers manage significant risks that threaten the viability of their farms and are beyond their capacity to manage.Services, according to him, include credit lines, input financing, and other financing services across the agribusiness value chain. The Chairman emphasised the need for the government to carry out the agricultural transformation plans to garner private investment.According to Edun, transformation plans with an investor mind-set anticipate changes in the enabling environment that will be necessary as the transformation progresses to support increasing private-sector engagement. He reiterated that the success of the roadmap relied on the commitment of the government and the stakeholders to a long-term vision and an appreciation for the economic imperative for supporting and maintaining the primary and value-added agriculture sectors.At the forum, experts and managers proposed mechanisms, policies and solutions to promote a sustainable agricultural system.Group Chief Executive, Tropical General Investments Ltd (TGI Group)s Agribusiness Investments, Ramesh M D urged the government to support the implementation of the road map in such a way that Lagos should serve as an example to the rest of the world for the ways in which private and public investment can transform a state into an agricultural powerhouse.He said the average age of farmers is increasingwhich represents a risk to food security, unless young people take action.He stressed that connecting youth with the farming and agri-food industry is more important than ever during these times as they continue to learn about the innovative agricultural sector.With the road map, Ramesh noted that Lagos has a golden opportunity to lead the march and set benchmarks for how the nation should reshape the economy and prepare the agriculture industry to focus on local production and serve to generate precious foreign exchange.He said the State needs to participate in the supply of essential input products for processing to ensure a stable, adequate and quality supply.Small in size like Netherland which has success story, the Chairman, Access Bank Plc, Dr Ajoritsedere Awosika said Lagos has the potential to increase current level of food production efficiency, and become a global food hub. Though Netherlands might be a small country, she noted that it was today the second-largest exporter of agriculture in the world, after the United States.Despite its limited land for farming, the Netherlands is now the worlds second largest agricultural producer due to large investment poured into infrastructure and technology, which has considerably enhanced its productivity.The Commissioner for Economic Planning & Budget, Mr. Sam Egube, said the agri/food industry in the Netherlands was one of the most booming in Europe. He said the Lagos Government was taking lessons to enable it revolutionise food production.According to him, the vision is for a vibrant and progressive agriculture and agri-food sector that is sustainable and growing, reiterating that the government was ready to work closely with industry partners to ensure the food system remained strong, resilient, and productive.To strengthen the economy, the Chairman, Lagos House Committee on Agriculture and Cooperatives, Hon. Kehinde Joseph, said the legislature was ready to make laws to remove impediments to investment in the state,He said the House would enact laws to introduce incentives to encourage foreign investment, and boost growthWhile the nations economy has been shaken in recent years by the fall in oil prices and their subsequent impact on government revenue, the agriculture sector has registered steady growth.With a population of over 22 million, stakeholders believe expansion in domestic production and value added are key to strengthening the economy and achieving food self-sufficiency.With foreign investors eyeing the sector, the President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Toki Mabogunje urged the government to create the environment to increase market competitiveness and agricultural productivity, and improve risk management practices.This, according to her, will set the direction for the future of the sector to help it continue to innovate, grow and prosper, and position Lagos as a leader in the agric economy. The move towards large-scale farming in partnership with foreign investors, stakeholders were of the opinion will help to potentially drive up the quality and exports of locally produced goods.With imports on the rise, she posited that the agriculture and agri-food sector must rise to the challenge.In hiscontribution, the Director, Development Finance, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Yusuf Yila said the apex banking institutionwasready to work with Lagos Government to support agriculture and agri-food projects to grow farm and food-processing businesses.He identified Lagos agri-food sector as having great potential to be a driver of economic growth for the nation.He urged the government to explore the Anchors Borrowers Programme which holds a promiseforthe agriculture sector.
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