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Opportunities in Nigeria's Agriculture Sector  (Reviewed, 31st Oct  2005) Tell your friends about this page! Email it to them.

Introduction Brief History
Nigeria's Agricultural land Area Nigeria's Crops
Livestock Fisheries
Land Tenure System Investment Opportunities
Contacts Agriculture Data (Separate Page -152kb)

A Rural Farm Settlement Near Abuja, Nigeria's Federal CapitalAgriculture (including hunting, forestry and fishing) contributed an estimated 32% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 1998 to the Nigerian economy. An estimated 35.2% of the labour force was employed in the sector in that year. The principal cash crops are cocoa (which accounted for only 0.7% of total merchandise exports in 1995), rubber and oil palm. Staple foods include rice, maize, taro, yams, cassava, sorghum and millet. Timber production, the raising of livestock (principally goats, sheep, cattle and poultry), and artisanal fisheries are also important. According to World Bank estimates, agricultural GDP increased at an annual rate of 2.9% in 1990-98.

The sector remains the largest contributor to the Nigerian economy, accounting for over 38% of the non-oil foreign exchange earnings, and employing about 70% of the active labour force of the population. Although, the sector has suffered much neglect by the Federal Government since the discovery of petroleum in commercial quantity in 1958, but its importance cannot be over emphasised in the Nigerian economy.

Brief History

The agricultural history of Nigeria is intertwined with its political history. This can be assessed from the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial periods. Before the British conquest the pre-colonial society strived on agriculture as the main stay of the traditional economy. The period of the colonial administration in Nigeria, 1861 – 1960, was punctuated by rather ad hoc attention to agricultural development. During the era, considerable emphasis was placed on research and extension services. But of importance to the writer is the post-colonial period.

The 1962-1968 development plan was Nigeria’s first national plan. Among several objectives, it emphasised the introduction of more modern agricultural methods through farm settlements, co-operative (nucleus) plantations, supply of improved farm implements (e.g. hydraulic hand presses for oil palm processing) and a greatly expanded agricultural extension service.

Some of the specialised development schemes initiated or implemented during this period included:

  • Farm Settlement Schemes; and

  • National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), launched in 1972.

There were also a number of agricultural development intervention experiments, notably

  • Operation Feed the Nation, launched in 1976;

  • River Basin and Rural Development Authorities, established in 1976;

  • Green Revolution Programme, inaugurated in 1980; and

  • The World Bank-funded Agricultural Development Projects (ADP).

While each of the above programmes sought to improve food production, the ADPs represented the major practical demonstration of the integrated approach to agricultural development in Nigeria.

In spite of the growing importance of oil, Nigeria has remained essentially an agrarian economy, with agriculture still accounting for significant shares in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and total exports as well as employing the bulk of the labour force. Available data show that at independence in 1960 the contribution of agriculture to the GDP was about 60%, which is typical for developing agrarian nations. However, this share declined over time to only about 25% between 1975 and 1979, this was due partly to the phenomenal growth of the mining and manufacturing sectors during the period and partly as a result of the disincentives created by the macroeconomic environment.

Similarly, the growth rate of agricultural production exhibited a downward trend during the period. Thus, between 1970 and 1982, agricultural production stagnated at less than one percent annual growth rate, at a time when the population growth was between 2.5 to 3.0 per cent per annum. There was a sharp decline in export crop production, while food production increased only marginally. Thus, domestic food supply had to be augmented through large imports. The food import bill rose from a mere N112.88 million Naira annually during 1970-74 to N1, 964.8 million Naira in 1991.

The years since the early 1960s have also witnessed the establishment of several agricultural research institutes and their extension research liaison services. Some of the major institutions are:

1. Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Service (AERLS) at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria established in 1963;

2. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), at Ibadan and;

3. International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA).

Nigeria’s Agricultural Land Area

Nigeria’s total land area is 92.4million hectares. Of this area 91 million hectares is adjudged to be suitable for cultivation. Approximately half of this cultivable land is effectively under permanent and arable crops, while the rest is covered by forest wood land, permanent pasture and built up areas. Among the States which have the most abundant land areas are Niger (7.6 million hectares) and Borno (2.8 million hectares). See table at: Agriculture data

Nigeria's Crops

In 1996, a total of 33 million hectares were cultivated to crops generally; out of which 17.7 million hectares were for staples and 4.9 million hectares were for industrial crops.

Agriculture crops in Nigeria are grouped into the following:

· Cereals (guinea corn "Sorghum spp", millet, maize "Zea mays" and rice "Oryza sativa")

· Root and tuber crops (cassava "Manihot esculenta", yam "Dioscorea spp", cocoyam, and potatoes (sweet and irish))

· Grains legumes and other legumes (cowpeas "Vigna unguiculata", locust bean "Parkia clappertoniana", soyabean "Glycine max" and other beans such as groundnut "Arachis hypogeae", pigeon pea "Cajanus cajan", bambara nuts "Voandzeia subterranean")

· Oil seeds and nuts (melon "Cococynthys citrullus", benniseed "Sesannum orientae or S indicum", kolanut "Cola nitida or C. acuminata", coffee "Coffee Arabic")

· Tree crops, and (cocoa "Theobroma cacao", oil palm "Elaeis guineensis" and rubber "Hevea brasiliensis")

· Vegetables and fruits (vegetables: onions "Allium cepa", African spinach "Amaranthus spp", Indian spinach "Basella rubra", Pumpkin "cucurbita pepo", Sweet pepper "Capsicum annum", Hot pepper "Cinetum africanum", Water leaf "Talinum triangulare", Carrot "Daucus carota" and Lettuce "Lactuaca sativa"; fruits: pineapple "Ananas comosus", Pawpaw "Carica papaya", Mango "Magnifera indica", Banana/plantain "Musa spp", Citrus "Citrus spp" and Guava " psidium guajava")

Nigeria’s Livestock

Cattle rearing has been given the greatest prominence in discussions of Nigeria’s livestock industry. The country’s cattle territory is essentially in the Sudan Savannah where the limiting factors are the amount of water supply available as one moves north from the Middle Belt or Guinea Savannah towards the Sahara and the existence of tsetse-fly infested forests to the south. This main cattle territory contains about 90% of the country’s cattle population. The two other cattle-producing areas are the southern forest zone where the Muturu cattle which is tolerant to typanosomiasis is found, and the Guinea Savannah where the Ndama cattle and crosses of Muturu and northern Zebu cattle are found. These two lesser areas contain the remaining 10% of the country’s cattle population.

In the cattle territory is found also about 70% of the country’s population of sheep and goats that have adapted to the ecological contraints. In the Guinea Savannah and Southern forest zones, there is found the remaining 30% made up of the indigenous dwarf breeds of sheep and goats. Various exotic breeds of pigs are found in different areas of the country. All over the country, there is a very large population of poultry, especially the local breeds reared under free-range conditions. Commercial production of poultry and pigs takes place in various states of the federation.

Nigeria’s Fisheries

Fishery in Nigeria is mainly done by the artisanal sector. The coastal and brackish waters constitute the major areas of production, followed by inland rivers and lakes. No attempt has yet been made at separating the production into coastal and brackish water sources because the species of fish utilised are closely similar and also because it is difficult to separate the fishing communities into those that operate at sea and those that fish in the lagoons, creeks and other brackish water environments.

Production from aqua culture is still low. Production from industrial fishing, which comprises the commercial trawlers, is also low compared to the artisanal. On the whole, fish production in Nigeria is still largely dependent on the small-scale fishermen. The demand for fish in Nigeria today is certainly greater than the total production from her domestic sources. Thus imports account for about 50% of fish consumption in the country.

The long-term approach, however requires substantial modernisation of the fishing industry to enable it make more positive contribution to the nation’s economy. Here, five essential inputs must be made available. These are:

  1. Capital for development.

  2. Fishing terminals that are fully equipped and modernized.

  3. Fishing equipment such as vessels, canoes, outboard engines, nets, ancillary gear such as warps, floats, lead and twines, etc.

  4. Trained and competent manpower, and

  5. Meaningful additive research results to ensure continuity and progress.

Post-harvest fish processing is another area of investment to which efforts must be devoted in order to guard against fish losses. Moreover, aqua cultural development should be intensified so that pressure on coastal waters, rivers and lakes will be relaxed. At present, there is over-fishing in most of the inland waters. Fishermen should be kept abreast of technologies in aqua culture (like the tank system and cage culture), which can increase the nation’s fish production significantly.

Land Tenure System In West Africa

Land tenure in West Africa is defined as the system of land ownership or acquisition by individual, family, community or government agency either for temporary or permanent use. The system varies from tribe, community and state. It can be classified into the following groups:

  1. Communal land tenure; a situation where land belongs to the entire community. Every member of the community has the right to use the land for agriculture, but cannot sell any portion of it.
  2. Inheritance land tenure; land is inherited from one’s parent or from one generation to another. In Nigeria, land for agricultural activities is mainly acquired through inheritance because the owner has complete freedom on the land.
  3. Leasehold System; this requires the payment of certain amount of money for the use of the land over a stated period of time.
  4. Rent land tenure; this system allows for a farmer to rent a land for use over a short period of time during which certain amount of money is paid as rent for the use of it
  5. Land tenure by purchase or freehold; an outright purchase of land for agriculture.
  6. Land tenure by free gift or pledge; land given as gift.
  7. Individual land tenure; land belonging to an individual through either freehold ownership or rent tenancy.
  8. Tenancy at the will of government.

Opportunities in the Agricultural Sector

With the right technological base, investors can get good return on investments in livestock and fish production which studies have shown to be viable, storage facility services is another unexplored area, efficient distribution network, oil palm products – palm oil, palm kernel cake, cooking oil, vegetable ghee, shortenings, margarine, CBS, CBE, ice cream, dough, creaming, coating and other specialty fats -, food processing is still under-utilised especially the exportation of Nigeria’s local delicacies and food stuffs – beans flour, yam flour, fufu flour, poundo yam flour, cassava flour, plantain flour, melon, ogbono -, also sea foods either dried in whole or blended – shrimps, crayfish, crabs etc, mechanised and plantation farming and cash cropping in cocoa, groundnut, rubber, cotton and timber are also area for exploration.

For Further information on investing in Nigeria’s agricultural sector, you may contact:

Federal Ministry Of Agriculture And Rural Development

Block A, FCDA Secretariat Complex,
Garki Area 11
P.M.B 135, Garki Abuja.

Tel: +234 (09) 3142622, 3146509, 3142914

Minister: Malam Adamu Bello

+234 (09) 3141931

Minister Of State: Mr Bamidele Dada

+234 (09) 3142405
Permanent Secretary: Alhaji Umaru Alkaleri

Lagos Liaison Office

Glass House (5th floor)
Former National Assembly Complex
Tafawa Balewa Square
P.M.B. 12613, Lagos

Tel: +234 (01) 2632880, 2636473

Picture: A rural farm settlement near Abuja, Nigeria's Federal Capital Territory


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