The Federal Government has released N26 billion towards the 2015 annual dry season farming programme aimed at producing more food for Nigeria.
Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy which was solely dependent on oil resources, has recently re-developed a focus on agriculture as a new lifeline.
“As crude oil prices decline, we must create new wealth from the richness of our soils, the vastness of our rivers and the abundance of our cheap labour,” President Goodluck Jonathan said at the Agric Festival, in Abuja on Friday. “We will produce more, and we will industrialize the agricultural sector.”
He said the N26billion was to appreciate the contribution of rural farmers to massive food production in the country and to encourage the farmers to plant thrice a year to boost food production and eliminate hunger and poverty.
He also asked all those owing the country rice import duties to pay up as Nigeria will not be held hostage by rice importers. He added that there would be no sacred cows in government’s efforts to achieve its vision of self-sufficiency in rice production for the country.
The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina, had in Lagos said N36.56 billion was owed the Federal Government by foreign and local importers who wish to run their own rice policy.
The president noted that rice farmers across the country now had a new lease of life, owing to the transformation taking place in the sector. He said over six million rice farmers have received improved rice seed varieties, boosting domestic rice production by an additional seven million tonnes.
He said the rice revolution was taking place across the country: in Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Bauchi, Gombe, Niger, Kogi, Ogun, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Rivers, Anambra, Delta, Edo and Bayelsa States.
Mr. Jonathan said the number of integrated rice mills had expanded from one at the beginning of this administration, to 24 today.
“We have transformed the face of agriculture,” He said. “Our country is producing more food than ever before. Our national food production has expanded by 21 million metric tons
within the past three years. Our food import bill declined from N1.1 trillion in 2009 to N634 billion in 2013 and continues to decline; this is progress and we must continue to move forward.”
He said the number of seed companies had also increased from 11 to 134 within the past three years, increasing access to high quality seed from 4,252Metric tons in 2011 to over 149,484metric tonnes in 2015.
According to him, with N900 Billion ($5 billion) of new investments in the fertilizer sector, Nigeria would soon become self-sufficient in fertilizer production, and turn into a net exporter of fertilizer.
As this happens, the price of fertilizers will decline, and farmers will be able to afford more fertilizers to boost their food production, Mr. Jonathan said.
To further spur the traditional fishing competition in Argungu and promote fishing eco-tourism, in the country, the President also directed the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to henceforth provide, annual financial support for the Argungu festival.
The Agriculture festival which held at the Eagle Square Abuja, tagged “Agric Fest,” was organised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in collaboration with farmers and agribusiness operators across the country.