ONE achievement President Muhammadu Buhari is always eager to flaunt wherever he speaks publicly is his administration’s efforts to improve the agricultural sector and boost local crop production.
During his state visit to the United Kingdom in April 2018, he seized the opportunity to boast about the government’s perceived feats to his friend the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the British Prime Minister, Theresa May.
“I am very pleased with the successes in agriculture,” he said to May. “We have cut rice importation by about 90 per cent, made lots of savings of foreign exchange, and generated employment. People had rushed to the cities to get oil money, at the expense of farming. But luckily, they are now going back to the farms. Even professionals are going back to the land. We are making steady progress on the road to food security.”
Again during an interview granted to journalists in January, the president insisted that under his watch Nigeria has “virtually achieved food security”, accusing the media of not fully appreciating the strides.
“We made fertilizer available at virtually half the price we met it, and we are producing it locally. We work together with another African country, Morocco. I’m sure you have felt it. We don’t import rice, virtually, anymore. We don’t import rice, we have stopped importing rice, and we are even exporting grains,” he said.
But the opposition party does not agree with these claims. The People’s Democratic Party presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, said during a town hall meeting on Wednesday that, despite the government’s policies, agricultural output under the PDP was much higher than what the country now has.
In this fact-check we put both claims to test, contrasting them with available figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, which harmonises and publishes statistics from all the federal ministries, departments and agencies, State Statistical Agencies, as well as Local Government Councils (LGCs).
Calculating agricultural output
In assessing output from the agricultural sector, The ICIR mined data from 35 quarterly reports released by the NBS, providing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates four times every year. The agency started releasing the reports at the end of 2011 and has given out data from the first quarter of 2010 to the third quarter of 2018.
The aim of the reports, also called Quarterly National Accounts or Quarterly Establishment Survey, is to describe the entire system of production in the nation and to provide “a picture of the current economic status of the economy”.
The GDP is used as the “broadest quantitative measure of a nation’s total economic activity; [and] represents the monetary value of all goods and services produced within a nation’s geographic borders over a specified period of time.” And NBS’s quarterly GDP reports contain such information as what percentage of the GDP is contributed by the agricultural sector and the percentage of growth experienced in the sector.
Using the former figure and total monetary value of the country’s real GDP in a particular period, one is able to determine how productive the agricultural sector is, not just in relation to other sectors but in isolation. The sector comprises activities on crop production, livestock, forestry, and fishing.
What the numbers say
Three things should be noted to start with. One, agriculture is a highly seasonal economic element, witnessing regular fluctuations in performance due to plant seasons and natural disasters, and it’s been observed that its share in the third quarter is often the highest.
Secondly, in 2014, the NBS revised its current and constant prices using 2010 estimates, which led to a sharp fall in agricultural productivity indices. Before this year, the bureau used estimates from 1990. Because of this, it would be unwise to blindly compare pre-2014 figures and those churned out for the 2014 and later reports.
Finally, though the APC government at the federal level was handed over in May 2015, for the purpose of this fact-check the line between the two administrations was drawn from the first quarter of 2016. This is because policies of the new government cannot reflect immediately following the inauguration, its first budget was not passed until the following year, and then President Buhari did not appoint his cabinet ministers until November, 2015.
Based on this premise, agricultural outputs have slightly increased under the present administration. Numbers mined from 11 quarters of PDP rule show that the average GDP from agriculture was N3.79 trillion, and between 2016 and 2018, the figure has risen to N4.19 trillion.
The average percentage of agriculture’s contribution to the country’s aggregate GDP, in relation to other sectors such as industries and services, has also increased from 22.72 per cent to 24.48 per cent.
It is, however, noteworthy that the tables turn when we consider the average, real growth rate of agriculture, which has dropped from 3.66 per cent to 3.27 per cent.
In the second quarter of 2015 when the PDP handed over, agriculture’s contribution to the GDP, real growth rate, and sectoral GDP were 21.12 per cent, 3.49 per cent, and N3.48 trillion respectively. For the second quarter of 2018, the figures respectively were 22 per cent, 1.19 per cent, and N3.65 trillion.
Based on available data, it is not true that agricultural output was higher before the All Progressives Congress took control of the presidential villa. The claims of the present administration with respect to food security and crop production have also been greatly exaggerated.