Kashim Shettima, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is wooing investors from the United States with Nigeria 70 million hectares of arable land. He also disclosed that the Federal Government plans to set up mechanised farm centres in all the 774 local government areas (LGA) in the country. The vice president said this on October 24, 2023, in Iowa, United States, while on a mission to woo investors. He said that the venture will help to guarantee food security.
Nigeria has been battling with food insecurity for the last few years. In the 2023 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Nigeria ranks 109 out of the 125 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2023 GHI scores. With a score of 28.3 in the 2023 Global Hunger Index, Nigeria has a level of hunger that is serious. Also, in January 2023, UNICEF revealed that nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023 (lean season) if urgent action is not taken. This was according to the October 2022 Cadre Harmonisé, a government-led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis carried out twice a year.
Weather and climate contribute to problems in the agriculture sector.
In 2022, an estimated population of 88.4 million people in Nigeria lived in extreme poverty, according to Statista. While the number of men living on less than $1.90 per day in the country reached around 44.7 million, the count was at 43.7 million for women. Apart from poverty, harsh weather patterns, droughts, extreme temperatures and floods also impact agricultural productivity and food production not only in Nigeria but also globally. Within the past decades, the impact of climate conditions is evident on crop production across the country’s different regions.
Data from Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) shows that the duration and intensity of rainfall have changed from normal across some states over the years, with devastating impacts on agricultural practices. One of the worst floods in the last decade was experienced in Nigeria in 2022 as hundreds of villages and urban centres were submerged in waters, displacing over 2.4 million people. This also affected agricultural productivity, worsening the situation and contributing to increase in the price of food.
Government is helping farmers increase productivity.
Also, conflicts and worsening insecurity in certain regions of the country, especially in the North, have equally disrupted agricultural activities and displaced farmers. Many farmers cannot visit their farms because of fear of being attacked or kidnapped by bandits or herdsmen. In addition, poor infrastructure (bad roads and inefficient transportation systems) and lack of storage facilities have contributed to the problems being experienced in the sector. Farmers experience wastage and spoilage, leading to losses.
Because of these issues, Shettima said that the government is helping farmers increase production and providing essential infrastructure for industries in peri-urban areas to expand their capacity. “This is the wisdom for our resolve to establish Mechanisation Service Centres in all our 774 Local Government Areas to facilitate essential primary production services.” He said that Nigeria remained the best place to invest, with about 70 million hectares of underutilised arable land, which is 75 percent of our total land area. Shettima noted that the country offers a substantial opportunity to both local and foreign investors to boost agricultural productivity. The vice president revealed that this is why the country has embraced the TAAT, GIP, and SAPZ programs and we are investing in agricultural research through the National Agricultural Development Fund (NADF).
Country is open to investors to own companies and repatriate profits.
The Vice President told the gathering that under President Tinubu’s watch, Nigeria has since demonstrated that the agrifood sector was a top priority. He added that while much of the demand for agribusiness products was satisfied through imports, the Tinubu administration is dedicated to reversing Nigeria over-reliance on importation. “Because we believe that import rules are a significant factor, we’ve established a policy of zero duties on agricultural machinery and imposed restrictions on certain agricultural commodities to stimulate local production,” he said. Basically, the government has opened the doors to foreign investors, allowing them to have 100-percent ownership in companies and repatriate their profits and dividends without hindrance.