Karima Babangida, Director, Youth and Gender, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, says agriculture is the panacea to the current economic recession in Nigeria.
She said this while speaking with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Zaria, Kaduna State.
“Of course, the Federal Government has no other option than to diversify because the price of oil in the international market has been dwindling; the price of oil is currently below 50 U.S. dollars per barrel.
“There are so many agricultural commodities that can fetch higher prices in the international market than the oil.
“Take for example, honey; we see honey around us and take it for granted but a litre of honey goes for more than N1,000 domestically and not even internationally, while a litre of petrol goes for N145.
“The way out for Nigeria is economic diversification; we should invest in agriculture and agric-business because Nigeria has the potential and capacity to feed itself and even export foods,’’ she said.
Besides, Babangida said that Nigeria had the capability to produce products like sugar, fish, rice, yoghurt and wheat in large quantities and even add value to them for exports.
She recalled that 2016 was a bumper season for rice and maize farmers, adding that the farmer made appreciable profits that year.
“This season, some rice farmers are smiling because they spend just around N200,000 as cost of production per hectare and get between N500,000 and N600,000 as income per hectare.
“That means you will get a net profit of about N300,000 to N400,000; honestly, what job can you do to get that kind of profit in just three to four months?
“Therefore, that is why I insist that the answer to Nigeria’s economic problems is agriculture; we are trying to encourage our youths to actively go into agriculture.
“The Federal Government has introduced N-Power programme and under that programme, there is a component called N-Power-Agro,’’ she said.
Babangida said that the essence of introducing the programme was to recruit 100,000 young graduates as agricultural extension service providers.
She said that when these youths were engaged, they would not only extend agricultural services to smallholder farmers but they would also attract other youths to the programme.
“This will send a message to other youths that agriculture is not a poor man’s business; they will also understand that agriculture is not limited to using hoes and cutlasses.
“Agriculture can be mechanised and it does not necessarily entail production alone, it can involve other areas like value addition, processing, storage and marketing,’’ she added.