This refers to the negative impact newly discovered oil has on the economy of a nation. Often time, when countries whose economies have been reliant on other sources other than crude oil, they tend to concentrate on the potentials of their new found treasure at the marginally expense of the prior sources of economy growth. Nigeria has been a casualty of this disease.
In the 1960s before Nigeria turned to Oil, she was one of the most promising agricultural producers in the world. Between 1962 and 1968, export crops were the country’s main foreign exchange earner. The country was number on globally in palm oil exports, well ahead of Malaysia and Indonesia. She exported 47% of all groundnuts putting it ahead of the US and Argentina. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s status as agricultural power house declined, and steeply. While Nigeria once provided 18% of the global production of cocoa, second in the world in the 1960s, that figure is now down to 8%. And while the country produced 65% of tomatoes in West Africa, it is now the largest importer of tomato paste.
Economic crisis has been triggered by the sharp decline in the prices of crude oil in the international market, as well as by the crisis in the Niger delta, which brought about a sharp drop in Nigeria’s crude oil and gas output. These twin problems of low oil price and low output, forced down the country’s foreign exchange earnings, reduced the country’s revenue, engendered a devaluation of naira due to scarcity of foreign exchange and also brought about a general hike in the prices of petrol. It is rather quintessential that as a country we return back to agriculture.
Agriculture is beyond tilling the soil. It involves all the processes from farm to table and includes processing, packaging, marketing, transportation and distribution. There’s a need for Nigerians especially the youths to return to our “first love”, only that we must do it much better than it used to be done several years ago.
The potentials that make agriculture superlative to Crude oil abound: An estimated 68 million hectares of arable land, abundance of natural forest and rangeland covering 37 million hectares await our investment.
Varieties of livestock and wild life, coastal and marine resources of over 96 million Km shoreline, expansive rivers and water sources make agriculture in Nigeria worth engaging.
An agricultural friendly environment, large consumer market as depicted by our teeming population of nearly 200 million persons, large regional and continental markets are all potentials screaming for our attention.
President Olusegun Obansanjo, one time president of Nigeria once said: ‘Agriculture can be even more than “the new oil”. One day, the oil will run out but sub Saharan Africa will always have its fertile land, its rivers its youthful workforce and its huge domestic market. Investing now can turn the potential into prosperity.