THE country is currently losing not less than $10 billion (about N150 billion) to the neglect of mainstream agricultural activities, the Minister of Agriculture Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said yesterday. Adesina, who spoke at the opening ceremony of a public hearing by the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, added that collapse in domestic production of oil palm alone had accounted for the loss of several billions of naira since crude oil was discovered in 1956.
He stressed the urgent need to revamp the nationís agricultural sector to generate jobs and end poverty.
The public hearing became part of efforts of the House to monitor the transformational agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan on key sectors, following a motion sponsored by one of the lawmakers on September 21, this year.
Adesina lamented how production rates in cocoa, cotton and palm oil, which were major items of foreign exchange, have fallen drastically due to poor funding and bad policies of successive governments since independence.
According to him, a lot needed to be done to increase agricultural activities, which now account for a paltry seven per cent of the national income and 44 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
While lamenting the disappearance of groundnut pyramids in the North, the minister said the country, which used to stand at 42 per cent of global supply in 1965 with 420,000 metric tonnes now has zero per cent.
Besides, he said the country, which at a point accounted for 25 per cent of global palm oil production with over 400,000 metric tonnes, now supplies mere 25,000 metric tonnes despite several government efforts.
He said Malaysia, which came to pick samples of palm fruits for experiment in Nigeria years back, now makes close to $18 billion from palm kernel alone annually.
With the current global rate of $3,000 per metric tonne of cocoa, Nigeria, according to him, has lost out in the market competition against countries, such as Ghana and Cote dívoire with mere eight per cent of global supply.
On fertilizer usage, the minister lamented that only 14 kilogrammes of fertilizers are available for an hectare of land, which he said is a poor comparison with nations like Indonesia and the United Kingdom.