The Senior Agriculture Economist, World Bank, Dr Adetunji Oredipe, on Thursday said the neglect of the agricultural sector when Nigeria’s economy became increasingly dependent on oil has proved to be a “disaster”.
He said if Nigeria had held to its market share in palm oil, cocoa, groundnut and cotton, the country would be earning at least $10bn annually from these commodities.
Oredipe said this while delivering a keynote address at the agriculture summit Africa in Abuja, sponsored by Sterling Bank Plc.
The event was attended by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo who was represented by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri; Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Paulen Talen; Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu; Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc, Asue Ighodalo; and the Managing Director of Sterling Bank Plc, Abubakar Suleiman.
Painting a picture of the country’s agricultural sector, the World Bank agric economist said Nigeria was now one of the largest food importers in the world.
He said in 2016 alone, Nigeria spent $965m on the importation of wheat, $39.7m to import rice and $100.2m on sugar importation.
Oredipe said the decision to spend $655m on fish importation seemed financially irresponsible given all the marine resources, rivers, lakes, and creeks in Nigeria.
He said, “None of the above transactions (importation of rice, fish, sugar) is fiscally, economically or politically sustainable.
“Nigeria is tragically living on borrowed time, a typical case of robbing Peter to pay.
“For instance, each time we spend money to import rice, Nigerian local rice farmers are negatively affected in terms of morale, sales, and realisable income.”
He lamented that despite the huge agricultural potential, Nigeria which used to be the major player in agriculture in the world has lost its place in the global community.