President Muhammed Buhari on Tuesday said N118.98 billion will be spent to strengthen the nation’s agricultural sector in 2018 in order to ensure food security.
He said the agricultural sector played a crucial role in Nigeria’s recent exit from recession and remains the largest employer of labour.
The president said this while presenting the 2018 budget to the National Assembly, Tuesday.
“We will consolidate on existing policies and develop new ones to ensure the numerous value chain challenges in the agricultural sector are addressed,” Mr. Buhari said.
He said several investors had deployed significant capital in the production and processing of crops like rice, sugar, maize, soya, cassava, yams, tomato, oil palm, rubber and poultry products adding that more effort will be deployed to see increased investment in the agro-inputs manufacturing sector.
Aside getting more of these investments, the president said efforts will be made to protect these investments because food is a crucial part of the administration’s national security agenda.
“We are determined to protect these investments and encourage more. Food security is an important aspect of this administration’s national security agenda. Any person involved in smuggling of food items is a threat to our national security and will therefore be dealt with accordingly,” the president said.
He said a committee chaired by the Vice President Yemi Osibanjo was working to ensure the nation’s borders are protected in this regard. He said a key part of the work of the committee would be the reactivation of the Badagry Agreement signed between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin in 2003.
This agreement, which the president said was abandoned by previous administrations, was to tackle smuggling and other cross border crimes.
To further support investors and state governments, he said his administration will accelerate the establishment of at least six staple crop processing zones which will develop infrastructure for the production, processing and storage of strategic commodities.
The president also spoke on other ongoing initiatives in the sector.
“We have also completed over 33,000 hectares of irrigation projects that have increased water availability in key food producing states. We shall continue to intensify our interventions through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative to ensure that this momentum is sustained.
“We have also made provisions in the 2018 budget to complete ongoing irrigation projects at Ada, in Enugu State; Lower Anambra, in Anambra State; and Gari, in Jigawa State. In 2017, many factories and projects in the food and agricultural sectors were commissioned in Kebbi, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Anambra, Edo, Jigawa, Rivers, Niger, Ogun and Ebonyi States, to mention a few.
“This is a clear statement that our economic diversification and inclusive growth ambitions are coming to fruition.”