Stakeholders and experts from different states of Nigeria converged on the Federal Palace Hotel in Lagos from November 26 to 27, 2019 to brainstorm on how to re-position rice, sugar and dairy products for optimal yields so that Nigeria can harness its potentials to not only feed its citizens but also export to other countries and generate jobs.
The two-day event, titled, Re-positioning Rice, Sugar and Dairy Production for Optimal Yield, took place at a period when the Nigerian government shut the nation’s borders along the sub-regional lines due to illicit trade, particularly, imports of agricultural produce that can be grown locally and even exported out of the country.
It also presented an opportunity for stakeholders to review, evaluate and exchange views on strategies that would bring the best out of the nation’s agricultural sector. The annual event is gradually growing to become an important forum for Nigeria’s agriculture and its value chain, as well as a platform that brings farmers, investors, financiers, and small and medium enterprises together.
All discussions at the conference tilted towards achieving self-sufficiency, food security, job and wealth creation from agricultural production, poverty alleviation and rural development in the country.
The chairman of the conference, a renowned chattered accountant and co-chair of the Nigeria Agribusiness Group (NABG), Mr. Emmanuel Ijewere, said Nigeria’s agricultural system had almost collapsed and is currently in an intensive care unit where it can be saved as a matter of urgency.
He lauded the closure of the nation’s borders by the Federal Government, noting, “Some felt the border closure was premature while some felt it shouldn’t have been done. The fact remains that our agricultural system has almost collapsed and the best way is to let it go through the intensive care unit.
“As a policy, what we have is what we should be proud of. Let us have Nigerian rice. Now, some Nigerians are beginning to realise the freshness of Nigerian rice. I am not saying the sector should be at the unit for too long, but let us be patient, endure the suffering for a short period and then re-position rice in Nigeria,” he said.
The Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) at the conference described the nation’s agriculture as a major and very important sector of the economy that employs about 38 per cent of the total working population and accounts for a large share of the country’s gross domestic product.
The national president of the association, Hajiya Saratu IyaAliyu, noted that recent success in the sector had demonstrated that with the right policies, Nigeria could scale up productive activities, improve food production and food security, as well as make impact within the agricultural value chain.
Hajiya Saratu, who was represented by the chairman, NACCIMA Agric Trade Group, Chief Ade Adefeko, lamented that about $35 billion was spent on food imports annually across the continent despite the fact that Africa is home to two-third of the world’s most arable uncultivated land.
“Rice is a staple in Nigeria and the country consumes about 7 million tonnes of it annually. Despite Nigeria’s potential in producing sugar for local consumption, the country has been under the stranglehold of sugar importation for the confectionary and beverage industry.