Lack of Regulatory Authority Slows Agric Development–Stakeholders | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Lack of Regulatory Authority Slows Agric Development–Stakeholders

Posted: Feb 26, 2016 at 7:25 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Seyi Taiwo-Oguntuase, Lagos

A lack of regulatory authority for the agricultural sector has been identified as slowing its growth and its contribution to gross domestic production and government revenues, according to stakeholders.

Unlike many other sectors of the economy, the agricultural sector has operated without a recognisable regulatory body, they said, which has seen its contribution to GDP sliding in the past decade.

In the 1960s, the agricultural sector was the most important in terms of contributions to domestic production, employment and foreign exchange earnings. The situation remained almost the same three decades later with the exception that it is no longer the principal foreign exchange earner, a role now being played by oil.

The sector remained stagnant during the oil boom decade of the 1970s, and this accounted largely for the declining share of its contributions. The trend in the share of agriculture in the GDP shows a substantial variation and long-term decline from 60% in the early 1960s through 48.8% in the 1970s and 22.2% in the 1980s.

Unstable and often inappropriate economic policies (of pricing, trade and exchange rate), the relative neglect of the sector and the negative impact of oil boom were also important factors responsible for the decline in its contributions.

This has been a source of concern among stakeholders in the sector who believe that the absence of such body is affecting smooth running of activities in the sector.

Edobong Akpabio, an agribusiness agroprenuer, said “until we begin to take agriculture like we take oil and gas, we will not be able to appreciate what people are doing there.”

She specifically made mention of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the regulatory body for oil and gas and claimed that the DPR makes rules/guidelines and criteria for operators in that sector to enable them have access to funding, which the agriculture sector lacks.

Akpabio further said funding criteria has become an issue which is affecting stakeholders in the sector simply because of the absence of a regulatory body.

“If you go to DPR and say you want to build a filling station, they will give you a standard guideline on how to go about it; they will tell you this is the minimum size of filling station you can do, these are all the documents you will need.

“I want to let you know that if you have all the documentations from DPR, a bank will give you loan. We don’t have such in agriculture as a result of that, funding agribusiness becomes a problem,” she lamented, adding that the sector seriously needs a regulator to curb unwholesome practices and institute uniform standards that will make agric products compete in the international market, thereby generate more revenues to the nation.

Victoria Betly, a Lagos based poultry farmer, said the absence of a regulator in the sector is a problem and that government needs to assist by instituting a regulator to oversee the sector and harness the immeasurable opportunities therein.

“It bothers us and government is not assisting. That has been a big problem we are facing. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources can’t be a regulator. Within the sector we want something that is all encompassing to assist every farmer just like the produce boards of those days that promoted agricultural production”, she reckoned.

Betly further said that if there is, it would boost the agribusiness. “We are limited now that we do not have a regulatory body, it is not really putting us where we are supposed to be, there is an adage that says no farmer no nation so we need a regulatory body.”

Also, Tina Ufeh of Buy Nigeria Limited said she hopes that something will be done urgently.

“It bothers us but we are hoping that something will be done. When you go out of the country and you see the pace at which they have gone in this sector you find out that we have not really done much,” she said, adding that the country is lagging behind in this sector and that there is room for improvement and government must improve, organize programmes for intervention for the sector to help farmers, processors, marketers and everyone in the value chain.

However, Onallo Akpa, Director General of Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), said there are regulatory agencies which have their power rested in various departments in the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. He said for instance if someone wants to establish a poultry business in Nigeria the power to inspect the site and approve it for citing and setting up the farm is vested on the veterinary services.

Akpa, however, said if the regulatory agencies are not carrying out their responsibilities it is a different thing to say, but that there are regulatory bodies.

The stakeholders affirm that a regulator like the CBN, DPR would do better job that is currently being done in the ministry, noting that such an independent body will be able to control and improve the contributions of associations and cooperatives in the sector, who act as checks to unprofessional activities, adding that impacts of these associations and cooperatives are not felt by all, especially those that don’t belong to any.

They believe that government needs to do more to make sure that regulatory bodies are established or strengthened as the case may be to regulate the sector, and move the sector forward.