By Joseph Okoghenun and Paul Adunwoke
POTENTIAL investors have been urged to see the Nigerian agricultural sector as the best place to invest in Africa, even as the Federal Government said that machinery is already in place to reduce the cost of doing agricultural business in the country.
Speaking Tuesday in Lagos during the Agra Innovative International agricultural event, organised by Informa and Afrocent, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said the country holds one of the greatest potentials in agriculture in the world.
According to him, the Federal Government has developed “crop staple zone” with advanced infrastructure in rural areas to attract various investors into agriculture in rural settings as a way of reducing the cost of doing agricultural business in the country.
To buttress that the nation’s agriculture is not a bad place to invest in, Adesina disclosed that Africa’s leading business mogul and President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has delved into agriculture with a staggering $1 billion investment in rice farming.
Stating that agriculture currently stands at 1.9 percent, he added that the Federal Government was taking the sector as a business and wealth creation strategy, not as a social service or poverty reduction mechanism. This could be attested to by banks’ lending portfolio to the sector, which has risen from 0.7 percent at the inception of the current administration some three years ago to 5 percent today.
Adesina, who said that Nigeria has made a headway with its e-wallet system, added that the nation would soon remove antiquated equipments like hoes and cutlasses from the farming system “to museums where they belong” with the just launched agricultural mechanisation programme.
At the exhibition attended by local and international agricultural investors, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, said state government was taking agriculture to greater heights because the sector has been recognised as the number one driver of President Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda.
He added that investing in agriculture in the state has gone a long way in “creating wealth, reducing unemployment and giving food to our people.” According to Obiano, who was represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Mekol Nnamdi Augustine, the state has invested $600 million in the agricultural sector and will double the amount before the year ends.
For the Chairman of Agriculture Group, Sanni Dangote, the private sector needs concerted approach in engaging the government to ensure that the environment for agriculture is competitive and comfortable, and to raise awareness on agricultural potentials in the country.
Stressing the importance of the private sector in the development of agriculture, he called on stakeholders in the private sector to work with the union to move the agricultural sector forward.