The Nigeria Agro Inputs Dealers Association (NAIDA) says the provision of adequate and affordable farm inputs will boost agricultural productivity in the country.
Alhaji Saidu Zakari, President of the association, said this on Wednesday in an interview in Abuja on the sidelines of a conference organised by the Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI).
CARI is a programme of German Development Cooperation (GIZ), aimed at developing rice farming and making farm inputs available, affordable, and accessible to farmers.
Zakari said that seeds, fertilisers and crop protection materials (agro-chemicals) were essential for improving the productivity and income of smallholder farmers in developing countries.
“Input supply is a critical factor in inclusive agricultural and rural development; this is why many donors support initiatives that will improve the access of smallholder farmers to quality inputs,’’ he said.
He said that Nigeria was facing two key gaps in its agricultural sector nowadays, adding that these were the inability to meet domestic food requirements and the inability to export at quality level.
Zakari said that the inability to meet domestic food needs was a productivity challenge which was driven by an input system and a farming model that were largely inefficient.
According to him, the ageing population of farmers in the country do not have enough seeds, fertilisers, irrigation facilities, crop protection and related support to enable them to be successful.
“The other challenge is driven by an equally inefficient system for setting and enforcing food quality standards as well as poor knowledge of target markets.
“Insufficient food testing facilities, weak inspectorate system in the public sector at all levels of government, and poor coordination among relevant federal agencies compound the early stage problems,’’ he said.
Zakari, however, identified weak legal and regulatory framework, unstable policy environment, poorly developed infrastructure and inadequate financial support as the major factors militating against the sustainable growth of the agricultural sector.
He said that the other challenges included lack of information on newly developed improved seedlings, inadequate extension services due to poor funding of the states’ Agricultural Development Programmes (ADPs) and poor rural infrastructure.
He also attributed the challenges facing crop protection to the tedious and incoherent registration procedures which had limited the market to a few companies, thereby limiting the choice of farmers.
“Inadequate information on the agro-chemical needs of the country makes it difficult for the agro inputs dealers to forecast and plan their supplies accordingly.
“Unorganised distribution system with weak regulatory system result in the sale of fake, adulterated or out-dated products.
“The problems also include government’s interference in the development of private-sector inputs production and supply network and low level of commercialisation, access to information and knowledge,’’ he said.
Zakari underscored the need for the government and other stakeholders to create a macro policy environment, while declaring and adhering to a consistent inputs marketing policy, as part of efforts to ensure the stability of the sector.
“Government should also build human capital for market development, improve access to finance, develop and implement regulatory frameworks.
“It should also promote market transparency via a market information system, promote technology transfer activities and strengthen research capacity for promoting private seed industry,’’ he said.
Zakari, however, stressed that CARI was committed to developing agriculture in Nigeria by reviewing the structures, functions and constraints of the agricultural input markets.
He said that the programme would also develop programmes and policies that would strengthen the functioning of agricultural input markets.
He said that CARI would develop an operational strategy or action plan for managing the transition from public sector to private sector driven agricultural input markets.