Building Nigeria’s breadbasket

With changing weather patterns alongside growing population figures, the world is looking to the underdeveloped fields of Nigeria to plug the food gap.

Agriculture has long been hailed as the silver bullet to many of Nigeria’s problems. It has the potential to eliminate the country’s high import bill, to develop complex value chains, and provide employment for millions.

“No sector has the absorptive capacity that agriculture holds,” says Aliyu Abbati Abdulhameed, managing director of the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL). From his point of view, like many others, agriculture has not only the capacity to feed the nation, it creates jobs for a country facing the intimidating challenge of finding employment for the hundreds of millions of Nigerians who will be born in the next few years.

There are some impressive examples, of Nigerians who have bucked the trend. Paul Gbededo, managing director of Flour Mills, sat down with us to explain how one flour mill can develop into the second biggest cassava flour miller in the world. “We are acting as a pool of agri-produce from the farmers and that is helping the farmers, because if the farmer knows he has a ready-made market that guarantees at least a minimum price for him, he will pay attention to harvest improving practices.”

Other, more diverse conglomerates have taken on the risk themselves. Alhaji Kabiru Rabiu, Group Executive Director of BUA explained to us, “We decided to produce what we were importing – cement, rice, edible oils and so forth.” Today, Nigeria eats 7 million tons of rice per annum, BUA Group alone produces 2 million. Rabiu explained that this is not even the tip of the iceberg, “Between the upper and lower Niger River basins lies over 1 million hectares of low arable land, perfect for rice production that is capable of yielding 5 tons per hectare, given that there were two rice harvests per year, that area alone can produce 10 million tons of rice.”

The government is doing impressive work, considering the sheer scale of the landmass that they have to care for. At the moment, Nigeria loses over 40% of its agri-produce post-harvest due to poor infrastructure, and in some cases lack of infrastructure from storage to logistics. Already, some players are working hard to find the funding, and to de-risk projects, in a bid to speed up the development of infrastructure.

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