Mr. Adesina said Nigeria is now the reference point for agriculture on the continent.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, has said that Nigeria would surpass its target and produce 22 million tonnes of additional food by 2015.
Mr. Adesina made this known on Friday during a media chat on self-sufficiency in rice in Abuja.
“When we started in 2011, our aim was to produce additional 20 million tonnes of food to the existing production.
“As at the end of 2013, 17 million tonnes of additional food had been produced since 2011 and by 2015, 22 million tonnes of additional food would be produced’’, he said.
Mr. Adesina said Nigeria is now the reference point for agriculture on the continent as the country is rapidly closing food importation gap.
He observed that the impact of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, ATA, was noticeable as food import had dropped by N2.5 billion in the last three years.
He said when ATA started in 2011, the land area for rice production was increased by 1.9 million hectares.
Mr. Adesina said rice varieties known as Faro 44 and 52, which is as good as the imported rice, had been introduced to about six million local farmers.
He said these varieties could give farmers five to six tonnes per hectare as against the one to two tonnes per hectare hitherto produced from the local grain.
He said the intervention of the Goodluck Jonathan administration has seen the production of paddy rice grow from four million tonnes to nine million tonnes in the last three years.
Within the same period, Mr. Adesina said, integrated rice mills had also increased from one to 18 in the country, with lots of small-scale millers also processing the commodity.
He said the ongoing revolution in the rice sub-sector was adding a lot to the domestic economy of rice producing states, which had increased from10 states at the start of the programme to 22 states today.
The minister noted that a total of N750 billion had been added to the economy of the states and thousands of jobs had been created as youth no longer sought cheap temporary jobs during the dry season.
Mr. Adesina described rice importation as `prodigal economy’, saying that Nigeria had no business importing rice when rice could be grown in all parts of the country.
He blamed the situation on oil discovery but acknowledged that the situation was changing as rice produced in Kebbi was being processed in Lagos, boosting economic relations between the states and creating wealth and jobs locally.
According to him, Nigerian rice is being sold in markets across the country and Nigerians were consuming it without knowing it.
Mr. Adesina said the ministry is working in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Finance to set up paddy rice bulk collection
centres, where there would be guaranteed price for the commodity.
He said that rice importers must produce or process rice locally before they would be allowed to import, to meet the total demand of the country.
On rice smuggling, Mr. Adesina stressed the need to protect local farmers by effectively manning the borders, adding that the government was determined to cub the activities of saboteurs.
The minister attributed the successes recorded in the sub-sector to the support of President Goodluck Jonathan and the collaborative efforts of state governments especially their contributions to the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme.
He advised unemployed youths to get involved in agriculture, saying “people do not eat gas or drink oil but eat food to stay alive.”
Mr. Adesina urged them to form clusters as that would enable them to have access to funds set aside by government to support youths in agriculture.
On the impact of climate change on agriculture, the minister said that government was interested in insurance cover for farmers, stressing that the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation, NAIC, had been repositioned to meet the demands of farmers.
He said the government was also putting in place an insurance programme called “Farming with Peace’’ which targets about 10 million farmers.
Mr. Adesina said that in order to eliminate the drudgery of hoe and cutlass agriculture which he described as `punishment’, the
government was setting up 250 agricultural equipment hiring centres across the country to enable farmers to practice mechanised farming.
He said the centres would be managed by the private sector, adding that he would continue to provide subsidies to farmers via their mobile phones, and also enable them to access the equipment.
He said N20 billion had been mobilised for the project.