Agriculture in Nigeria has been the economic backbone for a significant number of households, employing more than 60% of Nigeria’s total labor force. Over the years however, there has been a steady decline with a 34.66% rate of employment in agriculture as at October 2020. This reality can be attributed majorly to the challenges of the Nigerian agricultural market system. This market system determines a number of things ranging from the quality of agricultural products that end up on our tables to the livelihood, socioeconomic stability and financial strength of all players involved in all processes from farm to fork.
A market system is a systematic process that enables simple exchange of goods and services involving three components: the core market, supporting functions and the rules of engagement. Major players in a market system are the direct market players or the core market (producers, buyers and consumers); suppliers of supporting goods and services (veterinarians, transport agents, processing/packaging companies, etc) and entities that influence the business environment such as infrastructure providers and regulatory agencies. In the Agricultural space, buyers, sellers and other actors come together to trade in several farm produce (yam, maize eggs, ecetera) and offer diverse services (equipment, business consulting et al), forming an intricate network of various market systems. The efficiency of these systems has direct impact on the poverty level of a large proportion of the Nigerian population. However, this system is faced with daunting challenges demanding urgent and practical solutions.
A closer look at the core market shows that a large number of smallholder farmers lack the necessary skills and modern agricultural practices needed for improved crop yields which affects output. Lack of access to quality seeds/seedlings and mechanization, inadequate access to finance as well as lack of irrigation services for all year-round farming are the major challenges of small holder farmers. For some farmers, the challenge is the lack of standard storage facilities for their products which informs food waste, low returns for large quantity of farm produce and scarcity at certain periods of the year. Many of these producers face insecurity on farms as farmers get killed or kidnapped due to inability to access private security companies. Theft of farm products and vandalization of farm equipment, land use and ownership problems, the list could go on and on. Challenges emanating from the support services are unmotorable roads, poor power supply, high tax rates among others. All these factors make the market inaccessible for the poor rural farmer, the start-up agribusiness service provider as well as the low-income level consumer.
Nevertheless, regulatory agencies can come up with policies and regulations which will enhance the production of quality farm produce. The government in the year 2019 was able to increase local production of/demand for home grown rice and poultry products by the closure of borders. This in turn encouraged investment in this sub-sector and a high turnover. Such policies are needed for the improvement of basic amenities such as good roads, power supply and access to telecommunication networks in rural areas. Technological advancement provides high prospects that can mitigate the many challenges in the Nigerian agricultural market system if properly harnessed. Farmers can have direct access to the consumers through online marketing as well as real time access to veterinary service providers in cases of disease outbreaks. Farmers can also constitute cooperative bodies that facilitates access to grants, financial, technical and capacity development aids from international organizations.