BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The potential contribution of agriculture to economic development has been an on-going subject of much controversy among development economists. Much of the early work on this issue coincided with the debate on the role of agriculture in promoting economic development in low-income nations in the aftermath of extended periods of colonial rule ((Lewis, 1954, Fei and Ranis, 1961; Jorgenson, 1961; Johnston and Mellor, 1961; Schultz, 1964). Much of these investigations were qualitative in nature and they emphasized the potential impact of the inter-sectoral linkages between agricultural and industrial manufacturing sectors. After a lull in research on this subject, the recent flurry of theoretical and empirical studies on the subject indicates that the debate has increased in intensity (Echevarria, 1997; Humphries and Knowles, 1998; Gemmell, Lloyd, and Mathew, 2000; Kogel and Prskawetz, 2001; Gollin, Parente, and Rogerson, 2002, 2007; Gardner, 2005; Olsson and Hibbs, 2005; Tiffin and Irz, 2006). Research on this issue is crucial because it helps inform domestic and international policy decisions regarding how scarce resources are allocated to agricultural research and infrastructure.
Nevertheless, recent empirical studies have yielded mixed and sometimes conflicting evidence and there remains a lack of consensus on the effect of agriculture on economic development. While some researchers contend that agricultural output is a precondition to industrialization and economic development, others strongly disagree and argue for a different path. Several authors argue that development in the overall economy depends on the development of the agricultural sector (Schultz, 1964; Gollin, Parente, and Rogerson, 2002). Advocates of agriculture-led development (ALG) contend that investment in agriculture and the accompanying creation of infrastructure and institutions in other sectors is a prerequisite for national economic development
(Schultz, 1964; Timmer, 1995, 2002). These researchers note that development in the agricultural sector could be a catalyst for national output development via its effect on rural incomes and provision of resources for transformation into an industrialized economy (Eicher and Staatz, 1984; Dowrick and Gemmell, 1991; Datt, and Ravallion, 1998; Thirtle, Lin, and Piesse, 2003). Prior attempts various developing nations to industrialize their economy without prior development of the agricultural sector resulted in dismal economic development rates and very skewed income distribution (Bhagwati and Srinivasan, 1975).
Nigerian agriculture has shown good development rates in the recent past with growth rates of 7.4%, 7.2% and 6.5% in 2006, 2007 and 208 respectively. Between 203 and 2007 its average share of national real GDP was 41.5% thus underscoring its importance in the livelihood of Nigerians.
Of the growth in the 2003-2007 periods, the crop, livestock, fishery and forestry sub-sectors contributed 90%, 6%, 3% and 1% respectively. Thus the crop production sub sector is the key source of agricultural development in Nigeria. Major crops grown in Nigeria include yam, cassava, sorghum, millet, rice, maize, beans, dried cowpea, groundnut, cocoyam and sweet potato. These major crops which accounted for about 75% of total crop sales in 2004 increased from 81,276 thousand tonnes in 2004 to 95,556 thousand tonnes in 2007.
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