Minister of Agriculture Explains Reasons for Declining Agricultural Exports
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, has said the country had lost huge opportunities in its agricultural exports drive as a result of lack of extension workers to educate and guide export activities.
He noted that over the past four years, Nigeria had also been banned from the exporting its red beans into the European market because of the level of chemicals application in the crop, which is considered high for human consumption.
The minister, while speaking in Abuja at the opening of a training workshop for extension services agents in the 36 States and the FCT of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), said that if there were extension workers to guide the farmers, these problems wouldn’t have arose.
Nanono noted that for local commodity crops including sesame seeds, herbiscus, soybeans and cassava among several others, to have meaningful export market, extension services must become a priority for the government and private sector.
He said the important role of extension workers in agriculture had been relegated to the extent that extension workers are currently absent in some states, that a recent censor on extension work which was carried out about three years ago by the government, revealed that only about 16,000 extension workers existed throughout the country, although there are other private extension workers.
The minister said, “The implications of this is that we are way behind the average of our farmers to an extension worker even our neighbours have gone far ahead of us.
“So, one of the important issues when I came on as minister is extension work. I realised that we are losing a lot not only in direct production but also in post-harvest because we lack enough extension workers to go round.”
Nanono, who reiterated the cardinal principles of the present administration to grantee food security, said mechanisation is the way forward in agricultural practice and lamented the low level of mechanisation in the country, which he put at about seven tractors to 100 square kilometers.
“It is supposed to be 127 tractors to 100 square kilometers. Kenya is the most mechanised country in Africa with 27 tractors per 100 square kilometers. If Nigeria is going to catch up with Kenya, it has to have 60,000 additional tractors in the country.
“And if we are going to create a strong synergy between agriculture and the industrial sector and play our role in the export of agricultural commodities, it means mechanisation is the way forward and that’s the programme the federal government is undergoing.”
The minister said that to achieve meaningful mechanisation, the country require extension workers who are capable of delivering results, that the government will continue to push towards repositioning extension services, “untill we achieve our target of 75,000 extension workers over a period of three years.”
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