INTERVIEW: What Newly Appointed Agric Minister, Abubakar Kyari, Must Do To Stop Rising Prices Of Food — Muda Yusuf

INTERVIEW: What Newly Appointed Agric Minister, Abubakar Kyari, Must Do To Stop Rising Prices Of Food — Muda Yusuf

President Bola Tinubu last Wednesday assigned portfolios to his ministers and Abubakar Kyari, a former senator representing Borno North Senatorial District, Borno State was assigned the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS). In this interview with THE WHISTLER, the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise [CPPE], Muda Yusuf, spoke on policy direction that Kyari should explore in other to drive Tinubu’s ambition to alleviate food insecurity, worsening food inflation as well as the security of farmers. EXCERPTS….CONTINUE READING

Are You Satisfied With The Appointment Of Abubakar Kyari As Minister Of Agric?

Kyari has a good educational qualification and I also think he has good capacities to manage his portfolio. Agric is not such a technical department, and if the political leader has very good institutional support, which means support of the bureaucracy and technical unit within the industry, I think he should be able to deliver. Although, some of them are appointed until they start working before you can tell their strength and capacity.

You never can tell what people can do until given the opportunity to do it. For him, I think it’s a good opportunity to prove his capacity even though there is no evidence showing his educational knowledge on Agriculture. I don’t think it will be a problem for him, Agriculture is not just a technical issue, and he’s from the north, an environment where a lot of Agricultural activities take place.

If he has a very good sense of judgment, and has very good ability to manage stakeholders and involve them in various policies making process, then we expect him to be able to achieve result. He’s a very articulate man, as they say, the taste of the pudding is in the eating.

What Are The Immediate Decisions Or Policies The Minister Should Make To Hit The Ground Running?

His main responsibility is to manage the entire portfolio through management competency or management skills which is sometimes more important than expert skills. This is because you are dealing with quite a number of constituents in that sector. Technical skills of course, you can get technical people to give advice. But you can’t delegate your management capacity because you are to manage and ensure that all the resources within the ministries are deployed to achieve more results and that is what the real leadership is all about. There is absolutely no gain in having technical skills if you don’t have standard management skills.

How Can The Minister Bring Down Food Inflation Which Is Over 25 Per Cent And A Major Driver Of The Country’s Inflation?

Well, inflation is a serious issue in the country, but stemming food inflation is not just the duty of the Agric Minister. He cannot do it alone, first, he needs to work with the state because when food is being discussed both the federal, state government and local governments have a very big role to play.

In fact, the state has a bigger role to play as discussions on land acquisition and ownership is invested in the state government. And you can’t he talking about agric without talking of land as a liability especially when talking about mechanized agriculture. He also needs to work with ministries of the government to achieve his goals.

What Ministries Should Kyari Collaborate With In Order To Stem The Rise In Food Inflation?

Aside from working with the state government to achieve the food security objectives of the government, he needs to work with other ministries because agriculture requires that you have the infrastructure to link farms to the market, from the rural areas to the cities amongst others.

This means that he needs the cooperation and complementary role of the Ministry of Works. He also needs to work closely with the Ministry of Water Resources because irrigation is a major part of the farm process and it affects all-year-round farming, he can’t do that without working with the Water Ministry.

He also needs to work with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the financial community to ensure that he resuscitates the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) which is already moribund to be able to provide financing for farmers. He needs to involve the Ministry of Finance to ensure that the inputs that the farmers need that are imported are not too costly for the farmers to import or acquire them. Input like farm machinery, insecticides, and agrochemicals, improve seedlings amongst others because if these things are too difficult to import because of fiscal policy and costly to acquire, it will affect the development of agriculture. He also has to work with industries so those in the agro-allied industries can be able to take these products from the farm and process them.

There are a lot of linkages and it requires lots of collaboration, and he can’t do it alone. So, these are the critical stakeholders that he needs to partner with to positively drive the ministry.

Aside From Collaboration With Stakeholders What Must The New Minister Do To Make Farming Attractive For Farmers Amidst Insecurity?

The issue of farmers’ insecurity has harnessed the rising cost of food, farmers can’t go to their farms for fear of getting killed. So, he needs the military to ensure security in all the critical farm communities. Kyari must work closely with the security sector of the country, which in turn will be available and easily accessible to critical farming communities. Through this process, farmers will be assured of their safety and in turn goes back to their farms. Once this is done, more workable hands will be available thereby increasing the production of various farm products and quantities, which will in turn upscale supply to meet demands.

Tinubu Targets To Attract Foreign Exchange From Agric Exports. How Can The Agric Minister Attract The Required Resources And Investments To Make The Agric Sector Sufficient Enough To Feed The Nation And Export For Forex?

The minister has to champion the cost of investment in agriculture by working closely with investors to know what their major challenges are. He has not been in agriculture, he’s not a farmer, he’s not an investor in the sector, and the only way he can help investors in the sector is to listen to them. Listing plans and inclusively asking for their contribution and partnership to the set-out goals. The ministry does not do any direct agriculture, but the private sector. So, he needs to work with them as critical stakeholders to outline their pain points and solve those problems that are impeding the growth of agriculture particularly mechanized agriculture and even the small-scale agric because when you are planning export, you are looking at the higher end of Agriculture in the value chain. Proper inclusiveness will aid development.

In The Last Seven Years, Crop Production Has Been The Major Revenue Driver Of The Ministry, How Can The Minister Generate Revenue From The Livestock, Fishery, And Forestry Units Of The Sector?

If the other segments of agriculture are not doing well particularly forestry and fishery, then there must be a reason for it and he can only get the reason by engaging with stakeholders in that sector. He needs to know that agriculture does not end with rice alone. Within the crop unit, over the years, there has been too much focus on rice. All other crops are not getting attention, crops like cassava, cash crops like cocoa, palm fruits, and cotton are not invested in and getting the right kind of attention. So, the minister must come up with an inclusive strategy to develop all the segments of agriculture. Not relegating any. Of course, when we talk of food security, the crop segments are very important but other sectors are important as well.

The minister must meet the department overseeing the activity of the four segments of agriculture alongside relevant stakeholders by personally engaging them and knowing what the issues are and proffering solutions to develop those segments. Like forestry, there is a lot of illegal felling of trees, especially by Asians over the country, and in turn, export the woods out of the country.

Afforestation must be taken seriously while security agencies should impound vehicles transporting fallen trees without licensed approval because the rate of deforestation is extremely high. Also, the government should create more funding programs, for fishery, livestock, and forestry to aid the development of these sectors….CONTINUE READING

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