A gubernatorial aspirant in Oyo State, Professor Adeolu Akande, has identified agriculture as the surest way for Oyo State to expand her economic base and survive the effects of current national economic crisis.
Akande explained that the reliance on federally allocated revenue over the years is the bane of the current economic crisis afflicting the state occasioned by the inability to pay workers salaries among other obligations of government.
Speaking on a radio programme monitored in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital at the weekend, Akande said the comparative advantage of Oyo State in agriculture lies in poultry, cassava, maize and cotton cultivation, among others.
He explained that Oyo State which has an arable land mass of 28,545 square kilometres has no reason to be listed among states unable to pay salaries if the state had developed its potentials in agriculture instead of relying on the federal government for its finance.
“The comparative advantage of Oyo State is in agriculture. With 28,545 square kilometres of arable land, an army of youths who are unemployed and nearness to the Lagos market which consumes an estimated N8billion worth of food every day, Oyo State can leverage on agriculture to expand its economic base and stop the reliance on funds from the federal government for its sustenance, he said.
He revealed that Oyo State being the largest producer of cassava in Nigeria could double or triple its production of the product to expand the contribution of cassava to the economy of the state. ”Nigeria produces 54 million tonnes of cassava every year and exports less than one per cent of it. It also imports cassava products worth billions of dollars every year. What this meant is that there is a huge local and international market for cassava products which Oyo State can tap into if it expands what it is presently producing by leveraging on its expansive land mass and huge population of youths.
“For example, ethanol is one of the 14 derivatives from Cassava and Nigeria imports 98 per cent of her ethanol need, whose value is put at N800 billion. How much of this money taken out of Nigeria annually can we attract to Oyo State by expanding on our production of cassava?, he asked. He explained that the same situation applies to products like cassava flour and cassava sweeteners,” he added.
He explained that if government makes concerted efforts on the comparative advantage the state enjoys in poultry, maize, cotton and cassava through a mix of public-private partnership and the provision of conducive environment for large scale commercial farming, it will not only expand the economic base of the state and enhance government revenue, it will encourage industrialization, guarantee food security and create jobs for the teaming youths in the state.
He identified four major factors hampering the realisation of the potentials of the state in agriculture as the preponderance of small holding farming, an aging population of farmers, lack of effective extension services to bring the benefits of science and technology into agriculture and poor infrastructure serving the agriculture sector.
“The average age of farmers in Oyo State is put at between 55 and 61 years. We need to bring our youths into agriculture. Science and technology have increased the yield of agriculture produce and we need to bring the latest research findings to the attention of farmers through an effective extension service. We have to provide conducive environment for large scale commercial farming to attract industries using our agriculture produce as raw materials as a way of creating jobs for the youths. Finally, we have to provide support infrastructure for agriculture so that 50 per cent of farm produce do not rot in the farm as they do now,” he explained.