Nigeria’s Jonathan Sees Agriculture as New Growth Frontier

Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, is trying to reverse years of neglect of its farming industry and push agriculture as its “new frontier for growth” because it can no longer depend on oil to drive its economy.

“The transformation of agriculture in Nigeria is a centerpiece of the economic transformation agenda of my government,” President Goodluck Jonathan said today at a conference in Abuja, the capital. “The recent discovery of shale oil and gas means we can no longer depend solely on oil to drive the economy.”

Oil has dominated the economy since the 1970s, now making up 95 percent of export earnings and 80 percent of government revenue. Agriculture has shrunk by more than 40 percent, making Africa’s most populous nation with more than 160 million people more vulnerable to oil price shocks.

The government plans to boost food supplies by 20 million metric tons by 2015. While Nigeria grew enough food to feed itself in the 1960s, it is now the world’s largest importer of rice and sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest importer of wheat and sugar.

Nigeria is targeting $10 billion of investment in farming to boost food production by 2015, Agriculture Minister Akinwunmi Adesina said in a May 10 interview. Food production rose by about 8 million tons in 2012, about 40 percent of a four-year objective, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

“With abundant land and water resources, and an abundant vibrant labor force, Nigeria has all it takes to use agriculture as its new frontier for growth,” Jonathan said.

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