Some major stakeholders within key value chains of agricultural commodities are clamouring for the return of the commodity marketing boards with complete operational and organisational overhaul to ensure higher agricultural productivity in the country.
Commodity marketing boards for; cocoa, groundnut, cotton, palm produce, rubber and grains were set up in the 1940s in Nigeria at the end of Second World War to fund development of regional governments, economic development of production areas, ensure crop quality through grading system, etc.
The boards recorded trade surpluses, had functional mechanisms for dealing with farmers and ensured international standards of produce are maintained. They also provided guaranteed markets and prices for the different commodities.
However, it was not until 1986 that they were dismantled on charges of corruption and claims of personal enrichment by board members and staff.
In recent times, Nigeria currently has a missing link in terms of quality control and standardisation between agricultural producers and buyers of Nigerian produce at international markets.
In order to bridge the gap between what farmers offer for sale and the quality that befits international standards, President of National Cotton Association of Nigeria (NACOTAN), Mr Anibe Achimugu, opined that returning the commodity boards would deal with issues of quality and ensure standardisation of Nigerian agricultural goods and ensure exported products are not rejected at international markets.
The President of NACOTAN lamented that the agricultural sub-sector is characterised by haphazard nature of carrying out activities, in addition to non-control and abuse of privileges and contracts by different participants of agricultural commodities value chains.
On mode of operations, Mr Achimugu noted that they could be Federal Government enabled but should be managed by the private sector.
He mentioned that during the past administration, a similar setup was proposed for the cotton value chain known as ‘Cotton Corporation’ to regulate the industry which was Government enabled with necessary legislation by the National Assembly, with significant input from major cotton industry players.
The Cotton Corporation’s proposed board members he said, included farmers’ representatives, textiles players and ginners, non-governmental organisations, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Central Bank of Nigeria among others.
In his words, “The idea was that it would have been managed by the sector players, the people that are involved in the industry, but unfortunately it didn’t come to life.
“We have mentioned it to the present administration once or twice, and there was a document we submitted to the President and we mentioned the corporation and the need to have it set up,” he said.
Anibe emphasised that the ‘Cotton Corporation’ would be a quality guided business, and would deal with the issue of seeds, farm inputs and price guarantee.
In an earlier interview with Daily Trust reporters, Alhaji Garba Danjuma who has been into farming since 1972 said both the state and federal governments could easily assess the production, sale and consumption level of different crops which became difficult since the dissolution of the commodity boards.
Additionally, the United States agriculturist outlined that once a farmer was identified as a producer of a particular crop, he/she was given all the necessary input at the appropriate time only to pay back at the end of the farming season which was why agriculture was tremendous in those days.
Similarly, Bayo Ajibade who is the President of Potato Growers, Processors & Marketers Association of Nigeria (POGPMAN) has called on Government to have a national policy on every agricultural commodity because different conditions may apply to them.
Mr Ajibade explained that Nigeria is getting more and more additional commodities, affirming that there are minimum of 56 commodities in the country now, which is why there is a need for revisiting the national policy on agricultural commodities.
He proposed that unlike the defunct commodity marketing boards, new commodity boards should have be structured in a quasi-governmental manner, that is, a public-private-partnership should exist between Government and the private sector.
“No quality board can stand on its own, government must be in the control. If government wants anything done in the arena of potato, having formulated the policy alongside my association, my association will now go to the field to organise it and we put it across to the government and it goes to the board to decide on it,” he said.
He stated that farmers on the other hand have to pay their taxes, which would serve as additional revenue to the government, adding that even the United States of America has a Potato Board.
Bayo, who is also the Deputy Secretary General of Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association of Nigeria (FACAN) expressed concern that banned agro-chemicals are still widely used in Nigeria because of lack of a control body.
“Gamalin 20 has been banned in the world since 1978, but it is still being used in Nigeria till date, we need a national policy on potato in Nigeria,” he said.
Meanwhile, National Vice President/ South West zonal coordinator Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Mr Segun O. Atho outlined that there should be commodity marketing boards to buy back all produce produced by farmers in the country.
“During the days of marketing boards things, were very okay and we were having aggregating centres where farmers’ goods were aggregated before they are sold to the public or before they are exported out of the country,” he said.
Mr Atho affirmed that marketing boards will regulate a lot of things and establish guarantee minimum price for agricultural goods, and activities of middle men would be controlled.
“I support government to establish marketing boards because that would help farmers to have faith in continuous production of their crops,” he opined.
It should also constitute board members that would regulate it, policy must also be put in place that would regulate activities of those board members. There should be a structure to make sure it works for the benefit of farmers and producers.
Speaking on how establishing marketing boards could boost the rice revolution ongoing in the country, Segun explained that the board can help reduce cost of producing rice in the country and would further encourage more people to go into farming.
He stated that government can regulate whatever is happening in the agricultural sub-sector like they did with the petroleum deregulation by establishing commodity marketing boards.