The Agricultural sector is one of the most important sectors of the Nigerian economy with its contribution ranging from food production  to being the highest employer of labour, supplier of labour and raw materials to the basic agro-industries, beverages and confectioneries, textiles and provision of market for finished goods from those industries such as agricultural machines and pieces of tools/equipment, agro inputs such as fertilizers, seeds, agro-chemicals etc. Overtime, the performance of Agriculture in Nigeria has been on the decrease.

Many but varied reasons were attributed to the dismal performance of agriculture: Apart from the deadly blow agriculture suffers from the discovery of oil and it attendant consequences; Socio-economic and Political factors, low level Research and Development (R&D), Funding, Low level technology, Poor agricultural production infrastructure, Insufficient extension advisory services, Lack of improve seeds/seedlings caused its poor performance.

A lot of effort has been put into improving agricultural productivity and yield to lessen the rate of importation in Nigeria.  In a bid to implement one of these efforts, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural development hosted the 41st National Council on Agriculture meeting to deliberate and come up with a 5year Council plan in line with the Hon. Ministers Agricultural Rebirth Agenda. The meeting brought together agricultural experts, farmers, state and federal directors from the agricultural ministries, delegates from the 36 states of the council and other stakeholders from within and outside the country including the Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology in Africa (OFAB) Nigeria Chapter.

The opening Ceremony of the event featured remarks and goodwill messages by the representative, Chairman House Committee on Agriculture; President, All farmers Association of Nigeria; Hon. Commissioners of Agriculture; representatives of Agricultural Agencies and Private companies; representative, Hon. Minister of Finance; Chairman, Agri-Business group; Chairman Senate Committee of Agriculture; Honourable Minister, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Executive Governor of Kano state.

The Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe while giving his opening address said the meeting is very strategic for our country especially as we are facing global challenges in agriculture with increasing population, urbanization and insufficient food production. He indicated that most of the food we eat is produced by subsistence farmers and that has made Nigeria to import more than it produces spending 5million dollars yearly in rice importation, 6.5million dollars in wheat importation, 400million dollars in tomato importation, 600 million dollars in milk, 1 billion dollars in biscuit and other food items.

“Overtime, we assumed nothing was wrong because we depended on oil but now, we do not need to depend on oil anymore. The big question is we ready to work? If not Nigeria will die of hunger and starvation. The president has given his ultimate support to invest in agriculture to diversify the economy. We want to promote crops that will provide source of income for the country. There is a projected increase in Nigeria’s population to 450 million people making 5% of the world’s population. How does 25% feed the majority in the urban areas? It is time for us to see the future of agriculture in Nigeria.  He declared.

Chief Ogbe added that his ministry will work to reduce interest rate for farmers and encouraged the agric business group to be good partners in this business to help farmers with improved equipment to make farming easier for them. “After this meeting, we hope to come up with a 5 year plan that will move our agricultural sector to the next level” he concluded.

Similarly, the Executive Governor of Kano state Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje in his remarks welcomed all the delegates and participants of the meeting to Kano state. He said Agriculture is the mainstay of the people of Kano and insisted that Kano, being the most populous state in Nigeria should not be left out in any agricultural advancement programme being set up in the country. “Kano, is infact a commercial agricultural state and that’s why we are happy to be hosting this year’s agric council meeting. Over 70% of our people are farmers and we have a great potential to produce both food and cash crops like fish, tomatoes, onions, rice and vegetables, groundnut, oilseeds, soybeans, ginger, chilli pepper, sugar cane, etc. we have many rice mills located in different parts of the state and Dangote just established a tomato processing company to aid in processing tomatoes and minimize waste and also create market for kano state” He indicated.

Emphasizing what the Hon Minister said, the Governor acknowledged what the dwindling oil revenue has caused the economy and said the shift of focus to the Agricultural sector is the only bail out for the economy. “The demand on Agriculture at this point is very high because we need to produce the right quantity and quality for the growing population. However, as we embark on this collective burden-sharing tasks and navigate the serious challenges ahead, government must be reminded that we are in this situation in the first place, due in part to its complacency, utter neglect and disdain for the Agricultural sector:” He reiterated.

Other Features of the meeting included Presentation of memoranda by different agency and stakeholders, visits to the Rice Mills, FADAMA 3 project sites, Dangote tomato company, Kura exhibition site where the state governor distributed water pumps and bikes to farmers and unveiled the extension agents trained in working with the farmers, and exhibition by participating organization. OFAB Nigeria also displayed its information materials while different delegates visited the exhibition stand, asking more question about the potentials of agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria and how they can partner with OFAB.

Also, the National Biotechnology development agency (NABDA) presented a memorandum on agricultural biotechnology activities in Nigeria while OFAB Nigeria presented an information memo on the benefits of agricultural biotechnology in Nigeria. These Memos where approved by the Council and included in the 5yr plan.

During the Consideration of the memo, OFAB Nigeria Coordinator, Dr. Rose Gidado spoke to the council on how agri-biotech can be applied to improve yield and income for farmers. “This memo submitted by OFAB Nigeria seeks to request the council to approve the application of biotechnology in agriculture. The National Biotechnology Development Agency has the mandate of promoting biotechnology activities in Nigeria and is in partnership with institutes who are developing genetically modified crops with improved resistance to insects, improved nutritional content and improved resistant to drought. These crops when deployed can bring solutions to the major challenges faced by farmers. Also the National Biosafety Management Agency, has been established to regulate the adoption of these crops thus to make sure they are safely done. She stated

OFAB Nigeria also paid a visit to the Bioresources Development Centre in Kano State where the activities of the Centre which includes aquaculture and cattle breeding was shown to those present.