Vice President Kashim Shettima on Tuesday called on foreign investors to explore the country’s agricultural sector, saying that it is ready for agribusiness.
He said that Nigeria has a huge potential for agricultural growth, with 70 million hectares of arable land that are not fully utilised.
Shettima also stressed the link between food and national security, and urged the world to be alert to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical tensions.
This was contained in a State House statement released on Wednesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Communications (Office of the Vice President), Stanley Nkwocha.
The PUNCH reported that Shettima, on Sunday, October 22, arrived in Iowa, United States, for the African Development Bank’s World Food Prize-facilitated Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue.
The Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue, also referred to as the ‘Borlaug Dialogue,’ is a gathering of individuals from more than 65 countries fully prepared to address cutting-edge issues related to global food security and nutrition.
Speaking at this year’s edition, with the theme, ‘Harnessing Change,’ the Vice President told the gathering that “under President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s watch, Nigeria has since demonstrated that the Agrifood sector was a top priority.”
He also noted that “there were substantial opportunities in Nigeria for local and foreign investors to boost agricultural productivity.”
According to Nkwocha, while delivering his address titled, ‘Nigeria’s Agribusiness Roadmap for a Prosperous Future,’ Shettima said, “Our primary objective is to empower our farmers and attract investors. We are increasing primary production to harness the economic potential of agro-processing and industrialisation. This is why, upon assuming office, the President declared a state of emergency in agriculture.
“The connection between food and national security is too significant for us not to be alarmed by happenings around the world, whether in response to unforeseen disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic or the geopolitical frictions around us.”
The VP stated that in order to create profound economic opportunities for investors, the country has enabled interventions such as the “National Agriculture Growth Scheme, the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation, the Livestock Productivity and Resilience Support Project, the Green Imperative Project and the Special Agro-Industrial Processing Zones programmes.”
The statement read in parts, “Allow me to share that Nigeria understands the essence of partnerships in sustaining the dreams and promises that have brought us together today. This is why we are already collaborating with institutions such as the African Development Bank, the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the Islamic Development Bank, and the United States Agency for International Development to achieve food and nutrition security in Nigeria and beyond.
“With the invaluable support of our partners, we are exploring innovative strategies to transform this quest for food security into a thriving enterprise.”
Shettima highlighted critical areas Nigeria was assisting its farmers to increase productivity, including essential infrastructure for industries to increase their capacity.
He said, “With about 70 million hectares of underutilised arable land, which is 75 per cent of our total land area, Nigeria offers a substantial opportunity to both local and foreign investors to boost agricultural productivity. This is why we’ve embraced the TAAT, GIP, and SAPZ programmes and are investing in agricultural research through the National Agricultural Development Fund.
“This is why we are helping our farmers increase production and providing essential infrastructure for industries in peri-urban areas to expand their capacity. This, yes this, is the wisdom for our resolve to establish Mechanization Service Centres in all our 774 Local Government Areas to facilitate essential primary production services.”
He further stated that, while much of the demand for agribusiness products was satisfied through imports, the Tinubu administration is dedicated to reversing Nigeria’s over-reliance on importation.
VP Shettima noted that apart from the fact that its strategic location in West Africa provides easy access to regional and international markets, Nigeria was also poised to dismantle investment barriers.
This, he said, is being achieved through a supportive policy framework such as the National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy.
He continued: “Because we believe that import rules are a significant factor, we’ve established a policy of zero duties on agricultural machinery and imposed restrictions on certain agricultural commodities to stimulate local production. We are also offering preferential financing and subsidies, exemplified by an agricultural credit guarantee scheme that guarantees up to 75% of loans for agricultural ventures.
“We’ve also introduced a range of tax incentives, including tax holidays, deductions for locally sourced materials, labour incentives, and pioneer status incentives, making it easier to conduct business. Notably, we’ve opened the doors to foreign investors, allowing them to have 100% ownership in companies and repatriate their profits and dividends without hindrance.”
Shettima pointed out that the country was “committed to the journey towards a world where food security and nutrition are not luxuries but fundamental rights for all.”
Earlier at the dialogue, President, World Food Prize Foundation, and former U.S. Ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, described Shettima as a “rare African statesman whose leadership qualities, loyalty as well as sense of commitment to nationhood and development can best be described as legendary.”
The statement added, “He expressed optimism that the Tinubu-led administration would be successful given its devotion to results-oriented diplomacy.
“Attending the dialogue with the Vice President are governors of Plateau State, Barr. Caleb Mutfwang, Minister of Agriculture, Sen. Abubakar Kyari; Consul General (New York), Amb. Lot Egopija, and Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agribusiness and Productivity Enhancement (Office of the Vice President), Dr Kingsley Uzoma, among others.”