Nigeria has huge agricultural potential. With over 84 million hectares of arable land, of which only 40% is cultivated; a population of 167 million people, making her Africa’s largest market; 230 billion cubic meters of water; and abundant and reliable rainfall in over two thirds of its territory, the country has some of the richest natural resources for agricultural production in the world. Not surprisingly, Nigeria used to be a major player in the global agricultural market in the past, as the world’s largest producer of groundnuts and palm oil in the 1960s, and the second largest exporter of cocoa. The country was also self-sufficient in food production before the emergence of oil in the 1960s.
Statistics shows that:
In 1999, production of yams was 25.1 million tons (67% of world production); manioc, 33.1 million tons (highest in the world and 20% of global production); cocoyams (taro), 3.3 million tons; and sweet potatoes, 1,560,000 tons. The 1999 production estimates for major crops were as follows (in thousands of tons): sorghum, 8,443; millet, 5,457; corn, 5,777; rice, 3,399; peanuts, 2,783; palm oil, 842; sugar cane, 675; palm kernel, 565; soybeans, 405; and cotton lint, 57.
Cocoa is the leading non-oil foreign exchange earner, growth in the sector has been slow since the abolition of the Nigerian Cocoa Board. The dominance of smallholders in the cocoa sector and the lack of farm labor due to urbanization holds back production. Nigeria has the potential to produce over 300,000 tons of cocoa beans per year, but production only amounted to 145,000 tons in 1999. Rubber is the second-largest non-oil foreign exchange earner. Despite favorable prices, production has fallen from 155,000 tons in 1991 to 90,000 tons in 1999. Low yield, aging trees, and lack of proper equipment have inhibited production.
In this time when nations are struggling due to economic meltdown our dear country Nigeria should diversify her economy and go back to agriculture because it can rescue Nigeria from oil doom.
Gidi Dan Auta