Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nigeria seeks farming revival to break oil curse

Reuters: ... reforms will need to reverse the inadvertent damage done to the sector by Africa's earliest and biggest oil and gas boom, which crowded out other commodities. In the 1960s, Nigeria was the biggest exporter of peanuts in the world and had 27 percent of the palm oil trade. It remains one of the world's top cocoa growers, but production and bean quality have declined since their heyday in the 1970s. While an elite allied to a series of military dictatorships grew rich on the spoils of the energy sector, millions of mostly subsistence farmers were given little or no help at all. The result: Nigeria is now the world's second largest importer of rice and the biggest buyer of U.S. wheat, while much of its own fertile land lies fallow. A booming population has sent its food import bill rocketing to around $11 billion a year - equivalent to more than a third of the federal budget. Agriculture also offers the best chance to cut unemployment, which feeds an Islamist insurgency in the north and oil theft in the south. Unemployment is 23 percent and youth unemployment double that, national statistics suggest...

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