In July 2016, the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun announced that Nigeria's economy was technically in a recession. Nigeria's GDP contracted by 0.36% which was the first negative figure in many years. As if that was not enough on August 10, 2016 a report by Bloomberg and the IMF confirmed that Nigeria had lost the position of Africa's largest economy to South Africa. This is a position it had held for two consecutive years.
Where are the groundnut pyearamids? Where are the palm oil exports from the east? Where are the cocoa exports? After all, infrastructures pre-independence were constructed with revenue gained from agricultural exports among others. This was an era when oil was not yet discovered. After oil was discovered in Oloibiri, Bayelsa state in 1956, agriculture has been largely neglected in Nigeria.
Oil price fell to $ 27.67 a barrel, its lowest since 2003. And to make matters worse, the Niger Delta Avengers have reduced Nigerian oil production capacity to its worst in 20 years.
Oil should not be the only determinant of our economy. We should start looking towards agriculture as we did in the old days. Nigeria has about 71.2 million hectares of available agricultural land and only about half of that is utilized. The lands utilized are currently not even utilized to their highest production capacity.
Here are 5 crops that may turn Nigeria's economy around.
1. Cocoa: Nigeria was the fourth largest exporter of cocoa in 1990/1991 with sales of 135,000 tons which is about 7.1% of world trade as at then. Our exports reduced a lot due to black pod disease, labor shortages, aging trees etc. If we're serious we can retake our position as a leading exporter of cocoa beans in the world.
2. Palm Oil: Nigeria was the leading exporter of palm oil in the world until we were overtaken by Malaysia in 1971. Nigeria's palm oil export was about 43% of the world production at a time. Now it is less than 7%.
3. Rubber: Nigeria was once the largest exporter of rubber in Africa. But this is no longer the case. We currently export about 60,000 tons. In 1990, we were exporting 147,000 tons. According to the International Rubber Study group, the global demand for natural rubber may reach 14.2 million tonnes by 2020 while global production would be 13.6 million tons / year in 2020. As you can see the production would not be able to meet up with the demand . Rubber could turn Nigeria's economy around.
4. Rice: More than 90% of rice consumed in Nigeria is imported. An economy that focuses on importation would not be strong. We need to consume more of our local rice. We now have Dangote, Kebbi, Anambra and Kano rice. As at 10th of August 2016, a bag of Thailand parboiled rice was N16,000 in the local markets. Some of these our local rice now sell for as low as N8000 per bag. The more local rice we consume, the less rice we import. The less rice we import, the lower the demand for dollar and foreign currency used in importation. This would boost our currency and stop the catastrophic fall of the naira in relation to the dollar.
5. Cowpea: Nigeria is the largest cowpea producer in Africa. We could still increase our production further and boost our economy more. This crop has a vital role in animal feed formulation.