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Agriculture Vs Unemployment: Buhari’s Farming Policy Has A Major Flaw

Nigeria Student Forum / General Discussion / Agriculture Vs Unemployment: Buhari’s Farming Policy Has A Major Flaw

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Sani Ibrahim
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa,University
Agricultural economics and extension
100Level, Nigeria.
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Two weeks ago, President Muhammadu directed that food
and fertilizer importers should not be given access to foreign
exchange by the CBN.
The President added that Nigeria has lots of young people
(median age of 17.9), hence, agriculture is a means to solve
unemployment among youths.
“We have a lot of able-bodied young people willing to work, and
agriculture is the answer,” the President said.
However, Nigeria’s problem in Agriculture is not a lack of
personnel, but a problem with productivity.
This is exactly what has been happening to Nigerian
Agriculture-increasing 'activity' has not led to an
increase in productivity t.co/fbaM8rRo6N
— Chairman AW (@AffiSupaStar) September 11, 2020
Is productivity related to manpower in other countries?
The Netherlands is Europe’s largest agriculture exporter,
boasting of Europe’s most advanced agriculture sector. In
2019, the Netherlands exported €94.5 billion worth of
agricultural goods. That is a 4.6% increase in the €90.4 billion
export figure for 2018. Around two-thirds of this growth is due
to an increase in export prices, while a third is due to higher
export volume.
In 2019, the Netherlands had a labour force of 9 million,
and just 2% of that figure is employed through agriculture.
Meaningless than 300k people produce €94.5 billion worth of
agricultural exports in 2019.
What about other emerging economies?
Comparing Nigeria to the Netherlands does not paint a proper
picture as the latter is a typical first world nation with most of
the labour force out of agriculture.
However, other emerging economies also have large
agriculture sectors, which could be comparable to Nigeria’s.
The top 4 rice exporting nations of 2019 were India ($7.1
billion), Thailand ( $4.2 billion), USA ($1.9 billion), and
Vietnam ($1.4 billion).
The United States is the only top 4 exporting rice nation that is
not regarded as an “emerging economy.”
Does agriculture play a major role in their economic
workforce/ productivity?
India : The Asian giant has a labour force of 494 million, of
which 44% are employed in agriculture, the Industry employs
23% of Indians while the Service economy employs 31% of
However, despite being the world’s largest exporter of
rice, agriculture produce did not even make India’s top
ten exports , as industrial goods were responsible for India’s
top ten exports. Mineral Fuels made up India’s top export in
2019 at $44.1 billion, followed by Gems and Precious Metals
at $36.7 billion, and Computer Machinery at $21.2 billion.
India’s I.T sector is also a major producer of Indian
productivity with domestic revenue expected to hit $44 billion
in 2020, while exports revenue was estimated at US$ 147
Thailand : The world’s second-largest exporter of rice had
total exports of $245 billion in 2019, with a labour force of 39
million which is even less reliant on agriculture than India.
Agriculture contributes 8.4% to Thailand’s GDP, with
Industry at 39.2% and Services being the highest contributor at
Food is not a major top 5 export from Thailand, as Computer
Machinery was its major export in 2019 at $40.2 billion,
followed by Electrical equipment at $33.9 billion and Vehicles
at $28.9 billion.
Vietnam : Southeast Asia’s star economy was the 3rd largest
emerging economic rice exporter in 2019, with a labour force
of 57 million. Vietnam recorded a trade surplus of $11.12
billion in 2019, from exports of $264.189 billion.
Agriculture contributes 15.3% to Vietnam’s GDP, followed by
industry at 33.3% and Services at 51%.
Vietnam exported $126 billion in electrical equipment in 2019
alone, with smartphones and spare parts making up $51.38
billion of that amount. Footwear exports came at $24 billion in
2019 while clothing was $16 billion.
From the data above, agriculture which employs a component
of emerging market economies does not contribute the most
to their productivity, as manufactured goods are a major
source of export income and rising.
Does sending more people to the farms
increase productivity?
Affiong Williams, the founder of food processing company
ReelFruits, says that she does not think sending more
Nigerians to the farms will increase productivity because
“ There is very little material productivity to achieve by increasing
physical labour on the farms. Productivity increases in
Agriculture, which moves the needle on production output, are
more impacted by things like fertilizers, mechanization, and
increased technical expertise. Manual labour is no match for
any of those things.“
What does Nigeria need to do to improve yields?
“ The over-reliance on smallholder farming, in my opinion, is the
biggest hindrance by the government to improve agro yields,”
she added.
She added that even though the current model may be seen
as a “development activity,” it barely achieves its true aim.
“ To improve the output of any crop, one needs to do a lot of
testing and control for so many factors to be able to arrive at the
right conditions which increase productivity. Smallholder
farmers do not have the resources to do this type of ‘A/B
testing’ as it were and so it is very difficult to get true
information and disseminate the right techniques that all of
these farmers can apply.
“I think the government needs to enable more commercial
farming by the private sector who are able to acquire the
resources to increase productivity and disseminate such
learnings at a faster pace, ” she said.
The story is even more tragic when you compare with
our neighbours: pic.twitter.com/YMAcGlzbOf
— Chairman AW (@AffiSupaStar) September 11, 2020
Bottom Line: The Nigerian government is not focusing on the
aspects that increase productivity in agriculture which experts
say are fertilizers, mechanization, and increased technical
expertise, components that cannot be replaced with more
human capital in the farms.
Secondly, growth in Nigerian agriculture yields can only be
done through large scale commercial farming with the ability
to conduct tests to find the right techniques for farmers.
Finally, compared to contemporary emerging economies,
Nigeria is seriously lagging behind in both agriculture exports
and manufactured exports, as Nigeria’s top
ten agriculture exports hit just N289 billion between April 2019
– March 2020.

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