The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry,LCCI, has advised government to pay greater attention to agricultural value chain as a measure to realise its objective of achieving food security.
The Chamber recognised the fact that the Nigerian economy remained one of the most viable in Africa with diverse natural resources and a large market with a huge demographic advantage that can propel the diversification drive of the current administration.
The LCCI at its 2016 Lagos International Investment Conference, though commended the significant effort already invested in attaining food security, but added that greater attention should be focused on developing the various agricultural value chains, thus enhancing access by farmers to critical inputs as well as improved and more favourable access to finance and access to markets, both locally and for exports.
The conference also suggested that agro-allied processing should also be emphasized, stressing that significant foreign exchange could be earned by a focused policy and strategy to empower local farmers and processors to attain minimum international quality standard for agricultural products and access to foreign markets.
The forum noted that underutilization of the country’s natural endowments has stifled the growth of the economy and limited the opportunity for diversification, especially of the external sector.
“The urgent need therefore to move away from the precarious dependence on one major source of foreign exchange earnings by diversifying the export base of the economy through an all-embracing economic development strategy was highlighted” the Chamber said.
The conference canvassed that rebalancing the economy for a more vibrant export sector requires the effective collaborative efforts of both the government and the private sector, saying that this will be achieved through the provision of the required enabling environment that will spur and redirect resources toward an export-led growth.
It said other sectors such as agriculture, agro-allied, automotive and solid minerals remain viable for economic diversification.
The conference noted that the stymying of foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows was the direct result of an inclement economic policy environment which constrained the ability of foreign investors to take ample advantage of the huge investment opportunities prevalent in Nigeria with some of the highest returns on investment globally.
The conference reaffirmed the importance of a holistic economic blueprint that will provide the right set of incentives to both local and international investors toward making Nigeria a competitive destination for investment inflows and improving the ease of doing business.
More importantly,it recognized that the agricultural sector remained an important sector in providing jobs to the teeming youth and ensuring food security.
“A significant improvement in investment in the sector would improve on the per-hectare use of fertilizers, irrigation and mechanization so as to significantly improve agricultural productivity, thereby curbing rural-urban migration.
Investments in commercial agriculture offers a great window of opportunity which should be exploited to the fullest, alongside encouraging and empowering small and medium scale farmers” it concluded.