Nigeria is richly blessed with agricultural resources. Many of these resources are grossly underutilised while many others have not been exploited at all. Nigerians are not fully aware of the potentials of the export sector of the country’s economy in respect to revenue generation.
Moreover, export has been viewed by many as the exclusive enterprise for the rich, multinational corporations, or those with tones of naira. Surprisingly, this is not the case; an average individual can go into agricultural export business. Many small scale enterprises have been responsible for the export drive in many countries.
Its high time private investors latched in on the situation to help the government out by going into serious agriculture. There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is seriously challenged. It is obvious, isn’t it?
However, the greatest threat to national stability today is food security. By way of definition, food security is the state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
It is imperative we all know that we are stakeholders in tackling the issue of food security. We can be smallholder farmers planting vegetables and fruits in our backyards. We can engage in small scale animal husbandry and poultry in our homes. We can also provide an enabling environment so that those who want to engage in agriculture can practice without fear of molestation. Food security is the best security because, as the saying goes, a hungry man is an angry man.
An export is a product that is shipped from Nigeria to a foreign country. An import is a product that is brought into this country from another country. Agriculture in this country, both exports and imports involves commodities, which are any useful thing that can be produced, sold, or bought. Commodities are the end result of agricultural production.
Currently, the trade balance of agricultural products is not encouraging for our country. The trade balance refers to value of goods shipped out of Nigeria compared to the value of goods shipped into the country. In recent years, some industries have lost a large share of their market to companies in other countries. However, crude oil still dominates Nigeria’s export. Agricultural revolution through economic diversification is the way to go for a stable future.
Exportable agro products from Nigeria include ugu, utazi, palm oil, kolanut, ogbono, honey, chilli pepper, groundnut, hard wood, snails, garri, grasscutters, catfish, charcoal, timber, melon, cassava, cashew, sesame seeds, plantain flour, yam flour, shea butter, bitter kola, and other products that are shipped to other countries, but in a very small quantities.
Nigerians should produce and export more goods outside crude oil. Our economy will grow better if each day we export many agricultural products to other countries. This could generate more money annually for our economy and create business activities as well as millions of jobs. To maximise earnings from our farming ventures, we should include the plan for setting up a processing and packaging facility along with the farming project. It helps to make export smooth, compact and easier.
Some agricultural products are brought into the country. Although we have near perfect climate for agricultural production, some crops grow better elsewhere. Many special foods such as apple is brought in from other countries. All of the industries involved in exporting and importing agricultural products create a lot of jobs. This adds to the economic well-being of our nation. When the imports of manufactured products exceed the exports, agricultural exports help to bridge the gap.
If you are an average person you probably eat cow meat, potatoes, onions and tomatoes from the north, breadfruit, cassava, plantain, cocoyam and banana from the south. You live in a house built from lumber grown in the south. Of course, other regions also produce these products- agricultural products come from a wide area. The areas mentioned are ideal for the production of these items because of their climate and other factors. Onions grows poorly in the southern part of Nigeria, and northern region is more suited to growing groundnuts than timber.
Agricultural products are grown where the climate and other factors are suitable for production.
However, people in the north need timber, and people in the south need tomatoes. To solve this problem, agriculture has a marvellous system for distributing products all over the country. Many people make their living buying farm produce from producers and selling to wholesale distributors or to processors. These people process and package the produce and sell to retail stores that offer the products to the public. All these involve complicated networks of transportation. The produce is carried by railroad or by trucks. Farm produce that can get spoilt easily, may be transported in a refrigerated van, train, truck or by airplane.
Food processing is a huge industry that is a part of agriculture. Consumers want products that are as nearly ready to eat as possible. People no longer want to wash, shell, de-stone as they come from the farmers. Instead, they prefer to have the food processed and frozen in packages that go into the microwave oven and come out ready to eat. Few people want to make a pizza from the scratch when they can have one that is ready to be popped into the oven for a few minutes. Think a minute about all of the processing that had to go into making that pizza. The tomato sauce had to be made from raw tomatoes and spices. The crust was made from flour that was processed from wheat. The cheese had to be processed from milk, and the sausages had to be processed from various meat and spices.
All of the processing required large numbers of people work together just to get the pizza ready for you – and they are all a part of agriculture.
Look around you. Agriculture is very much a part of your life. Without it our lives would be dramatically changed.
Arinze Onebunne writes from Jovana Farms.