Despite the Federal Government’s continued rhetoric of guaranteeing food security through its Anchor Borrowers Programme and the lofty promises to diversify the nation’s economy through relevant investments in other sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, the government’s demonstrable commitment is still far-fetched. The agricultural sector has remained largely underfunded by the Federal Government. This is coupled with policy somersaults and lack of coherent strategy by the incumbent administration to move the sector to an enviable height.

For instance, data from the Budget Office of the Federation shows that the percentage of the total allocation to the agriculture sector dropped from 73.5 per cent in 2018 to 58.2 per cent in the 2019 budget.

The statistics further revealed that the trend of budget allocation for the agriculture sector over the last few years shows that the allocation to agriculture, as a percentage of the overall annual budget to all sectors, increased from 1.25 per cent in 2016 to 1.82 per cent in 2017 and to 2.23 per cent in 2018.

Disappointingly, the allocation to the agriculture sector in the 2019 budget dropped to a disappointing 1.56 per cent. While the government continues to beat its chest over increased local production on paper, the Nigerian economy is still driven by the massive import of agricultural produce. The last effort at food export, particularly yam, by this government in its first tenure ended in a fiasco thereby procuring international shame for the country.

Martins Eke of the Centre for Social Justice in an article argued that: “At a time the government is planning to diversify the economy away from crude oil and into critical sectors like agriculture, there is no acceptable explanation for a decrease in the percentage allocation to agriculture.”

Such a decrease, he says, suggests that agriculture has dropped in the pecking order of priority sectors of the government for the 2019 budget year and that was unacceptable.

However, one of the leading countries that successfully diversified its economy through agriculture is Brazil. While Nigerian authorities are cutting down allocations to agriculture against the backdrop of its promise of economic diversification through agriculture, the Brazilian authorities increased their total budget for agriculture by 24.3% in the 2017/2018 budget.

Therefore, any serious corporate entity, individual or government desirous of progress often envisions the outcomes of its plans but in this case, it is clumsy. Such plans could be short or long term in nature. Required resources and investment that will aid the upward mobility is also sacrosanct. Regrettably, the Federal Government of Nigeria deliberately and bluntly refused to walk the road less travelled and settled for the usual political superhighway of paying lip service to the sector without recourse to its monstrous consequences.

If the Federal Government is serious about food security and improving its foreign exchange earnings through export of agriculture, concrete steps aimed at large scale investments and mechanization of the agricultural sector in the country must enjoy priority attention. This is in addition to building and managing modern farms settlements that target the army of unemployed youths across the federation.

The biggest question, however, is how can a hungry country export food it does not have to feed her citizens?

Recall that the colonial administration with their imperialist economy in most African countries developed a robust agricultural policy that saw the defunct eastern region dominate the global market with palm oil produce, the north with groundnut and western region with coca.

Government-owned plantations and farms existed then, but today, such things are only read as history. Nigeria is too rich in terms of agricultural resources that it should have no business with hunger the way it is presently. The government should therefore stop playing to the gallery and face reality, come up with a workable policy capable of guaranteeing food security in Nigeria.

QUOTE:   At a time the government is planning to diversify the economy away from crude oil and into critical sectors like agriculture, there is no acceptable explanation for a decrease in the percentage allocation to agriculture

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