Overview of Agriculture in Nigeria

Reinvigorating agriculture is a priority of the Nigerian government
Agriculture contributed 41.84% to Nigeria’s GDP in 2009, and the sector employs around 70% of the workforce. The main agricultural goods produced are yams, cassava, peanuts, millet, sorghum, rice, maize, okra, cocoa, palm oil, rubber, cattle, fish and timber. Nigeria is a net importer of agricultural goods – in 2009, imports in the sector added up to more than USD3 billion, while agricultural exports accounted for about USD1.4 billion. Major agricultural imports are wheat, rice and sugar. Most agricultural imports come from the US and the EU. The country’s main agricultural exports are cocoa beans, rubber, sesame seeds and cocoa butter. Key agricultural export destinations are the UK, the US, Canada, France and Germany.

Most of those who work in agriculture are small-scale subsistence farmers: the country has around 14 million small farmers, and the average size of farms in the south of the country is 1 hectare, while in the north, the average farm is around 3 hectares. Around 33% of the country’s land is used as arable land, though about 80% of the land is potentially cultivable; there is no shortage of land suitable for cultivation overall, but more densely settled areas in the south eastern states have suffered from too much demand for arable land, giving rise to internal migration.

Much of Nigeria’s agriculture is carried out according to traditional methods, with mechanisation relatively rare. Government efforts to encourage modern methods have had limited success, since farmers frequently find it difficult to adapt to new technologies and have limited capital for updating machinery. 

The National Centre for Agriculture Mechanisation (NCAM), a government parastatal, was set up in 1990 to develop and promote mechanised farming in the country, through manufacturing tools, importing machinery and training farmers. The centre is the only one of its kind in West Africa, but has been held back in the past by underfunding.
Other factors that have held back the agricultural sector in the past include lack of investment, inadequate infrastructure and poor transport networks linking crops to markets. The government is working on regenerating the sector by addressing these and other problems.


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