What can Nigeria learn from the Netherlands? (1)

The Netherlands at 41,543 square kilometres, is 4.45 percent of Nigeria, which has a landmass of 923, 768 square kilometres. To this end, Nigeria is very big, yet, the Netherlands dwarfs her in agricultural productivity, and this is the starting point for lessons that have to be learnt.

Dutch exports of agricultural goods reached a record level of 91.7 bn euros in 2017, exceeding the previous record in 2016 by more than 7 percent. This was according to Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and Wageningen Economic Research on the basis of joint research commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality.

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The figure edges up to N100.8 bn euros, when agriculture related goods such as milking robots or machinery for the food industry are added. It is said to be the first time in history this export value has passed the 100 billion euro mark.

Conversely, Nigeria with an estimated 82 million hectares of Arable land, diverse, (mostly) favourable climate, and a 190 million population, is nowhere close to the Dutch’s level of productivity. The country’s agricultural exports barely sum up to one billion dollars, which could be described as just one percent of what the Netherlands currently exports.

“Don’t try to copy Holland. There are lessons to be learnt, but there are also ways not to go. Holland is very small, so we have very little land. We have not too much labour so we really need to go into high tech to be able to grow enough food, and we can afford the high tech because then we can save on labour,” said Rutger Groot, chairman, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer, and a member of the Supervisory Board EWS BV when he was interviewed earlier this year.

His observations about falling back on technology to compensate for labour costs was seen firsthand on tours to several farms during this year’s Dutch Roots/IFAJ Congress. But at the same time, the many ways technology would improve Nigeria’s agricultural productivity were very visible.

So, while Nigeria has population to its advantage, the use of technology by the Dutch needs to be a source of inspiration. Not so much from an end user point of view, but the determination that has seen Dutch agro players leading the way in inventions, which can solve their local problems. The small country is offering big solutions to the rest of the world because her people make an effort to develop their own solutions, master them, and still sell to the rest of the world.

More importantly, the capacity of Nigeria’s large population has to be adequately developed, in order to be optimally put to use for the country’s growth needs.

The biggest lesson for Nigeria from the Netherlands is determination to outperform the odds. A small country, yet, described as the world’s second largest exporter of food after the United States. Nigeria for many years has expressed the desire to become a ‘leader in agricultural’ output, but so far, there has been very little action, and will (political and individual) towards achieving this.

To be continued next week…

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