By Adeyemi Bamidele Ezekiel
The present administration is committed towards revitalizing agriculture to restore the glory days in agriculture through innovative ways.
These were the words of the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, contained in his speach delivered by Mr. Aderemi O. Abioye, at the just concluded Ecowas Agriculture, Agro-Allied & Technology Exhibition, themed “Agricultural production and processing for self sufficiency, poverty eradication and economic development” in Kaduna State.
The speach reads in parts;
The discovery of crude oil and over dependent on it has made Nigeria a net food importing nation spending an average of about 11 billion United States Dollars, annually on the importation of wheat, Rice, Sugar and fish.
The federal government is committed to diversifying the economy from oil as the source of revenue earnings to non oil sources using agriculture as a veritable platform.
We are committed to achieving massive production of staple foods such as rice, maize soughurm, wheat, soya beans, hulticulture, fish, dairy milk and sugar, while the export market will be developed through the production of cocoa, cowpeas, cotton, cassava, cashew, sesame seed, ginger, oil palm, gum arabic, yam, fish and aquaculture, and, Beef and livestock. Nigeria has the climate and ecological endowments to achieve all these. In this direction, my ministry has developed a new agricultural promotion policy called the green alternative to promote all the discipline approach to build a resilient agribusiness ecosystem that solve the core issues at the heart of limited food production and delivery of quality standards in Nigeria.
The private sector will remain in the lead with government facilitating as well as providing supporting infrastructure, systems, control processes and oversight.
The policy intends to achieve some key targets among which are unlocking the food potentials in the agricultural sector, food creation of enhanced opportunities for private sector investment and ensuring additional steady inflow of foreign direct investment into the sector. Others are to create an internally competitive market for agro entrepreneurs, provide easy accessibility in terms of business contact among value chain operators and building small holders entrepreneurs into big businesses. The success of this policy, will be driven by deeper level of engaging farmers, entrepreneurs, financial institutions, marketers and exporters. Our focus will be on creating an ecosystem in which small, medium and large scale farmers will not only co-exists, but flourish together. We will do more than plant new seeds, we will also create value added food stuffs for our staple crops through an aggressive import substitution programme and policies that will encourage new investors in food production and promote Agricultural sustainability and resilience.
To address the level of infrastructural challenges that faced food processors and to attract them into our rural areas, my ministry is developing staple crops development zones where food manufacturing companies will be encourage to locate, to bring them closer to farmers and to the areas of high food production.
Within these zones, government will scale up infrastructure especially electricity, roads, communications and water supply. This will reduce post harvest loses, lower the cost of transporting raw materials, stimulate real economic growth and link farmers directlty to food processing companies. We are also revamping our exports, while the price of crude oil has taken a nose dive; the global price of vegetable oil is on the rise. Nigeria must therefore take advantage of this, to become number one exporter of vegetable oil in the world with our comparative advantage in the production of pea nuts and oil palm. The demand for cocoa products has been on increase globally, with our early maturing varieties of cocoa, we are confident Nigeria will soon retain his lost position in the export of cocoa beans.
Nevertheless, our efforts must transcend the effort of raw cocoa beans to adding value to both local and international market demands and current position in cotton production is unacceptable. Just 30 years ago, the cotton, textile and garment industry was a major employer of labour in Nigeria. For this reason, we are committed to revitalizing the cotton industry in Nigeria.
Nigeria has the potential for beef export as we engage in traditional pastoralist in modern livestock production and best practices. Our grazing reserves will be revamped to ensure integration and reduce conflicts between traditional pastoralist and crops farmers.
We are also working to make Nigeria self sufficient in fish production by encouraging aqua culture inland and marine fisheries. The total national rice milling capacity has also improved with the increase in integrated rice mills to 27 in the year 2015. The federal government is procuring additional 40 large scales rice mills towards achieving a target of self sufficiency by the year 2018.
We are promoting a value chain approach of integrating efficient primary production with modern processing and facilitation of access to market with the government providing enabling environment, premises and incentives for a private sector agricultural transformation geared towards boosting sectorial growth.
We are improving on agricultural financing through the strengthening of the Nigeria incentive base, risk sharing system for agricultural lending (NIRSSA) to be able to provide risk cover for the small and medium scale farmers with reduction in lending rate. The bank of agriculture is being re-engineered and recapitalized, to provide funds for small and large scale farmers at single digit interest rate.
The agricultural investment market is being restructured to enable greater participation of private sectors insurance companies. And the National Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC) is rolling out new and affordable crop insurance products targeted at millions of farmers nationwide. In Nigeria, over four million youths enter the labour market every year seeking gainful employment.