Why Are Agricultural Inputs Important?
The backbone of any agricultural revolution is access of farmers to modern agricultural inputs. These agricultural inputs range from improved seeds, fertilizers, and crop protection chemicals to machinery, irrigation and knowledge. Seeds are critical to successful crop production and inevitably, farm productivity and profitability. Fertilizer supplies nutrients to the soil that are essential for growth. Increased use of fertilizer and improved seeds are partially credited with the large increases in agricultural productivity growth in Asia during the Green Revolution in the 1960s. Irrigation is also essential for growth as it enables off-season farming, provides the potential for multiple harvests per year and brings additional land under cultivation. Crop protection chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) control weed species, harmful insects and plant diseases that afflict crops. Finally, technical knowledge and machinery enhance human labor effectiveness and increase farm productivity. A 2012 study by the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Ibadan, on rice farming populations in the three major rice-growing regions in Nigeria, showed that in one farming season, the adoption of improved agricultural inputs and technology to rice farming, gave farmers a 358.89kg/ha (approximately 9%) advantage over their peers who neither adopted improved inputs nor technology into farming processes (“Impact of Improved Agricultural Technology Adoption on Sustainable Rice Productivity and Rural Farmers’ Welfare in Nigeria” AFDB, 2012). In the case of cassava, of which Nige-ria is the world’s largest producer, current production costs could be reduced by up to 40.5% with the usage of improved varieties of stems and the mechanization of planting and harvesting (“Cassava Demand: A Perspective” IITA, 2014). Applied with the ultimate goal of maximizing agricultural productivity, agricultural inputs definitely have a huge potential to scale-up and unlock agricultural productivity in Nigeria, most especially at such a crucial time in the development of the nation’s agriculture landscape.
Trends and Opportunities in Nigeria’s Agro-landscape
- In July 2013, Nigeria’s first ever herbicide-resistant maize hybrids were released. These maize hybrids are resistant to metsulfuron-methyl herbicide as well as the noxious parasitic weed Striga hermonthica. The hybrids were developed by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in partnership with DuPont Pioneer Seeds, Nigeria, using conventional breeding, with funding from IITA and the Integrated Striga Management in Africa (ISMA) project as part of efforts to control hermonthica in maize.
- In July 2014, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) calculated that 80 small-to medium-size African seed companies in 16 countries are on track to produce over 80,000 metric tons of professionally certified seeds in 2014. Two of these companies, one of which is Nigerian, have reached a 10,000-metric ton production level in a year.
- Bank lending to seed companies and small agricultural input retailers in Nigeria rose from zero in 2011 to $10 million in 2012 and $53 million in 2013 while bank lending to fertilizer companies rose from $100 million in 2012 to $500 million in 2013. ( June 6, 2014)
- According to Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, indigenous seed companies sold $10 million worth of seeds directly to Nigerian farmers in 2013.
- In February 2013, the management of Indorama Eleme Petrochemicals Limited concluded plans for the construction of Africa’s largest fertilizer plant in Eleme, Rivers State with financial support from the IFC. The plant, designed to produce 1.4 million tonnes of fertilizer, would start production by the fourth quarter of 2015 and engage largely in the production of Urea, NPK and other types of fertilizer.