Our new agriculture minister will have one of the most challenging jobs in government

By Ayo Akinfe 

[1] If you want an answer as to why Nigeria is lagging behind economies we should be ion a par with such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mexico, etc, look no further than this tree climbing device. This is a device designed by Indian agriculturalist Dr Renganathan that facilitates the easy climbing of trees. It is widely used across India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the rest of Asia too boost agricultural output 

[2] It has come in particularly handy with tall trees such as those that produce coconuts and palm oil. With this device, women can easy harvest fruits from these trees without endangering their lives. It is cheap, simple and can be moved around by individual farmers

[3] Nigeria is currently the world's number six agricultural producer thanks to the fact that we dominate the production of certain tropical crops like yam, cassava, kolanuts, shea nuts, egusi, etc and are also major producers of groundnuts, cocoa, pineapples, papaya, plantain, etc. However, if properly managed, agriculture could easily double the $50m a year we generate from crude oil sales 

[4] In Malaysia in particular, what they have done in the palm oil sector is plant short hybrid trees which can be harvested from the ground. They then use this device to harvest the few remaining tall trees out there. Do you know Malaysia generates $10bn a year in export earnings from the sale of palm oil products?

[5] As we all know, the Malaysians took the palm oil kernel from Nigeria and planted it. Today, these are the world's top five producers: Indonesia- 43m tonnes, Malaysia - 20.7m tonnes, Thailand - 3m tonnes, Colombia - 1.68m tonnes and Nigeria 1.05m tonnes. Nigeria actually produces more palm oil now than when she was the world's number one producer at the turn of the 19th century but other nations have overtaken us with accelerated production. It is not just about increased production but comparative cost expansion 

[6] When you do not update your production techniques, you will find it hard to compete with rivals. Even if you produce the same volume of crops as them, if you are producing 10 nper hectare and they are producing 30 tonnes per hectare, their goods will be cheaper than yours

[7] Aliko Dangote recent lamented how smuggling is hurting the Nigerian industry thanks to the porous border with the Republic of Benin. What he failed to tell us is that this happens because local produce is not cost-competitive. If a 10kg bag of Thai rice is of superior quality and costs N5,000 but an equivalent bag of Nigerian produce costs N10,000 because of high production costs, the buyers is going to want the former, hence providing a booming market for the smuggler 

[8] For example, why should Nigerian bakeries and confectionery firms be forced to buy local sugar at $20 a tonne when they can obtain it from Brazil or India at $15 a tonne? This makes them uncompetitive. We have to master the art of increasing unit per head output

[9] Our lack of innovation in agriculture is a major problem we need to address if we are to expand our reach in this sector. We have the manpower, arable land and perfect climate. We also have a competitive edge when it comes to tropical crops but value addition and enhancing productivity are areas that desperately need addressing. 

[10] Our new agriculture minister really has his work cut out. he should be given an export revenue target of $50bn to match crude oil sales. If he does not achieve this within four years, he should be liable to arrest and prosecution for criminal neglect. Our herdsmen crisis is also an agricultural matter which the minister must address. This is a job for a thinking man or woman!