The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, says the Federal Government has purchased 100 rice mills for distribution to rice-producing states in the country.
Mr. Ogbeh said this in Umuahia on Monday during the Federal Government’s town hall meeting with prominent indigenes of the state.
He said that the machines would also be sold to private millers at reduced rates, adding that the gesture was part of government’s intervention to boost local rice production.
According to him, Nigeria is spending $5 million daily on rice importation from Thailand, India and Vietnam.
He expressed delight that Nigeria now ranked second in rice production in the continent, adding that
the money spent on importation could be put into infrastructure development.
The minister also spoke on government’s efforts to enhance the production of cocoa and cashew in the country.
He said that the Federal Government would soon relaunch cocoa production in three states of Abia, Ondo and Cross River, adding that new fertiliser for the commodity was being developed.
Accordingly, he said that federal government also planned to set up six major cashew-processing factories in the country in collaboration with the private sector.
Mr. Ogbeh said that Abia had potential for coconut production and urged the state to explore its great potential in agriculture to boost its internally generated revenue.
He said that states in the federation could be financially autonomous and viable, “without depending on Federal Allocation,” if they could explore and exploit their huge potential in agriculture.”
According to him, a scheme for the construction of 10 dams in the 36 states of the federation and Abuja, known as Project 10-37, is underway.
The minister also said that there were plans to restructure the Bank of Industry to enable it meet the demands for facilities by agriculturists in the country.
He said that the Anchor-Borrower Programme would be expanded to include the rice millers at the end of the restructuring.
Also, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelama, said that the Federal Government was committed to the development of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) for which Aba was known.
Mr. Enelama said that to achieve its target on SMEs, government placed high premium on the development of dilapidated infrastructure, especially the roads and power.
He also expressed the hope that with the recent efforts made to resolve some issues delaying the take-off of Geometric Power Plant, located in Osisioma, near Aba, the problem of power in Aba would soon be over.
He said that government was determined to create industrial zones and parks in the country and that Aba stood to benefit greatly from government’s interventions for the nation’s industrial growth.
According to him, with government’s emphasis on how to promote made-in-Nigeria products, Aba stands an advantage of being a great beneficiary of all the federal government’s interventions.
The meeting, which was organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, was attended by some National Assembly members from Abia, including Mao Ohuabunwa, representing Abia North Senatorial District.
Other dignitaries included chairmen of political parties as well as a cross-section of traditional rulers from the 17 local government areas of the state.