by Opeoluwa Dapo-Thomas
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade, when life shows you pepper, make pepper soup. So when life gives us recession, what do we make out of it? Honestly I wish I knew. But what I do know is that it’s high time we diversify the economy. Only someone who has got the ostrich syndrome will not know that over-reliance on oil alone is detrimental to economic development. Ask South Sudan and Venezuela, how they are both faring?
In the light of this, I want to re-introduce an old friend, his name is Agriculture, and he used to be the happening guy after independence. He accounted for 65 per cent of our GDP and represented almost 70 per cent of total exports. Agriculture provided the foreign exchange that was utilized in importing raw materials and capital goods. Then the Politicians discovered Oil and neglected my friend Agriculture. Poor thing. It will be cliche if I reiterate the benefits of Agriculture but for the sake of emphasis I will. Revenue generation through (export substitution and taxation of agro-allied companies) is a major benefit. Creation of employment and provision of food for the nation are also important benefits. But still the Politicians neglected him for Oil.
This begs the question, why is agriculture treated like the “Side Piece” and Oil as the “Main Mistress?” I do not know, but what I do know is that in the grand scheme of things, Agriculture; if encouraged, harnessed and commercialized can be the solution to our problems. This can be elucidated by the current administration’s willingness to diversify the economy. There was a 13-point agenda on Agriculture raised at the two-day retreat of the National Economic Council (NEC) last year highlighting agricultural policies that can help in the revival of the economy.
As a protagonist for agriculture, I also recommend there must be industrialization as well before we can fully reap out of the proceeds of Agriculture. Industrialization of the agricultural sector is key. I read something about Cote d’Ivoire’s cocoa wealth sometime ago. Cote d’ Ivoire produces 33% of world cocoa and exports to manufacturers such as Hershey’s, Mars Inc. (both in the US) and Nestlé (Switzerland). Cote d’Ivoire earns 2.5billion dollars yearly from exporting raw cocoa. While Mars that buys Ivorien cocoa and makes several products from it such as Bounty, M&M, Mars and Milky Way, to name a few made a net income of 18 billion dollars from chocolate products alone in 2015, according to the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO). Compare that to Cote d’Ivoire’s 2.5 billion dollars gained from export. What a contrast!
Conclusively, I believe once the government and private individuals put the right pieces together, Agriculture can be the panacea to our wobbling economy. The question is, are we ready to pick up the lemons and make a lemonade stand?