The Executive Secretary (ES) ARCN, Prof. Garba Hamidu Sharubutu presented the lead paper at the Plenary Session of HORTSON’s 39th Annual Conference held at CRIN recently. In his presentation, delivered by the Acting Executive Director of National Horticultural Research Institute (NIHORT), Dr. Ephraim Nwanguma, he stated that agriculture is the singular most important sector that can transform the economy of our great country to meet the growing demands for food, nutrition, industry and jobs. It forms the bedrocks for the diversification and economic recovery plan of the Federal Government and plays critical roles in the livelihoods of many individuals in Nigeria. The population of Nigeria presently stands at 200 million and by 2050, it will increase to 450 million. This will bring imbalance between agricultural productivity and the population growth rates, which may exacerbate widespread food insecurity and poverty. Accordingly, increase in agricultural productivity is the key determinant to alleviate the foreseen circumstances and positively transform socio-economics and livelihoods of Nigerians farmers. In his presentation on the current state of agriculture in Nigeria, Prof. Sharubutu stated that crop production is the largest segment of Nigeria’s agriculture, which accounts for about 87.6% of the sector’s total output. This is followed by livestock, fishery and forestry at 8.1%, 3.2% and 1.1%, respectively. Agriculture remains one of the key sectors in Nigeria, contributing an average of 24% to the nation’s GDP over the past seven years. In addition, the sector employs more than 60% of the country’s labour force and more than 80% of Nigeria’s farmers are smallholders, which accounts for 90% of Nigeria’s agricultural produce. Agriculture budget is only about 1.8% of the total national budget size, which significantly falls short of the 10% specified in the Maputo Declaration. Nigeria’s agricultural trade deficit stood at N689.7 billion in 2019 compared to N549.3 billion in 2018, while Nigeria’s cumulative agricultural imports stood at N3.35 trillion, four times higher than the agricultural export of N803 billion between 2016–2019.
On the concept of Agricultural Research System in Nigeria, he asserted that the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), established in 2006, coordinates and supervise agricultural research, training and extension in Nigeria. The mission of ARCN is to achieve significant improvements in agricultural productivity, marketing and competitiveness through generation of appropriate technologies, policy options and knowledge management of the agricultural research system. National Horticultural Research Institute, Ibadan, is one of the sixteen Agricultural Research Institutes under the purview of ARCN and has the national mandate for research in horticulture. On the general concept, the ES submitted that Research and Development (R&D) creates new or improved technology that in turn can be converted into a competitive advantage at the business, corporate, and social levels.
The R&D activities include basic research, applied research and experimental development, and it is the first stage of the product lifecycle during which a product team will conceptualize and assess the viability of a new product. The ES commended the scientists for actively seeking to discover procedures that will increase livestock and crop yields, improve farmland productivity, reduce losses due to diseases and insect pests, develop more efficient equipment, and increase overall food quality, amongst others. He summed up that R&D is the key driver to increasing agricultural productivity in Nigeria.