16 September 2011
Written by Nasir el Rufai
Last week, we discussed unemployment in
, asking where the jobs are. In the coming weeks, this column will explore answers to that question by focusing on the real sector, beginning with agriculture. On the differing unemployment rates mentioned last week, we erroneously swapped the numbers. At their Senate confirmation hearings, it was Segun Aganga who mentioned about 20% while Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated that the unemployment rate was 14-16%. The senators did not question either figure. We apologize for the mix-up, but it shows the contradictions in ministerial statistics! Nigeria
Back to agriculture.
, a mostly desert country with only about 17,000 farmers produces a wide variety of food and cash crops. The country’s agricultural output is valued at over $2 billion, of which 70% is exported. Nigeria, on the other hand, has about 50 million people involved agriculture, with abundant arable land and water resources, yet last year spent over $4.2 billion to import food - N635 billion to import wheat; N356 billion on rice, N217 billion on sugar and N97 billion on fish – commodities we should be exporting. Israel
In the 1960s, agriculture contributed over 60% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
was the world’s second largest producer of cocoa with 15% of the world market, largest exporter of palm oil with 60% market share, and leading exporter of groundnuts with 30% of the world market. We also held dominant positions in the markets for cotton, rubber, hides and skins. Although the farmers relied on rudimentary, traditional tools and methods, the sector accounted for about 70% of Nigeria ’s exports, and about 95% of our domestic food consumption. Nigeria