Nigeria Cannot Sustain Rice Importation – Ogbeh

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Ogbeh
Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture

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Nigerian government says it cannot sustain importation of rice into the country, encourages local farmers

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Dec 12, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE Nigerian government has come to the realisation that it can no longer sustain the importation of foreign rice into the country. This is because rice imports  has continued to hamper the growth and development of the nation’s peasant farmers who are into local rice production.

Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture and rural development, made this known during a visit to the Ettem Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.

The minister was accompanied by Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State, chairman of the presidential taskforce on rice production, and Godwin Emefiele, governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. It was undertaken in a bid to ascertain the agricultural potentials in the state and explore possible partnerships.

While addressing some group of local farmers at the Ettem Amagu Rice Farm, Ogbeh disclosed that there had been tremendous pressure on the government to import rice in order to meet the demand for the commodity. He, however, stressed that with the downturn in the nation’s foreign reserve the country cannot continue to import rice.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari had issued a directive to the ministry to focus on agriculture especially rice production. He said the country had huge potential to grow rice in commercial quantity. “Each ship load of rice imported into the country displaces 12,000 farmers from employment,” he said.

The minister insisted that it does not make any economic sense to continue to spend scarce foreign exchange resources on rice importation.

Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi took the team to Ekaeze Rice farm in Ivo Local Government Area, Ettem Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area, Ikwo irrigation dam and the Abakaliki Rice Mill.

Governor Umahi while enumerating the efforts of his administration in the development of local rice production in the state, solicited for the efforts of the Federal Government and the CBN to improve agriculture and the value chain, noting that there is no way agriculture will develop without support.

He said that with the Rice Anchor Borrower Programme of the Central Bank, Nigeria would be positioned to be one of the rice growing nations in the world.

Ebonyi State is one of the most agrarian in all states in Nigeria with savanna and semi tropical vegetation made up predominantly of farmers. Its major agricultural potentials is in the local production of the famous Abakaliki rice which has made the state so popular and a commercial hub.

The federal government had in October this year disclosed its plan to end the importation of rice in the next one year. It stressed that unless Nigeria is able to feed itself, the country cannot be said to be truly independent.

According the federal government, food importation bill of the country which stands at between $2 and $3 billion is unacceptable.

Supporting, the Central Bank of Nigeria said that before the end of 2017, Nigeria will begin to export rice to other countries. Isaac Okoroafor, acting director, corporate communications, CBN,  on Tuesday, November 29, during a sensitisation/awareness programme for farmers in Bayelsa State under the apex bank’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, said the ABP had started yielding fruits. He insisted that with the progress so far recorded by the CBN through its agricultural financing policies, the country would begin to export rice by next year. He said already the rice harvest this year had exceeded projections, noting that if the tempo was sustained, by the end of 2017, Nigeria would not only meet its national demand, but would export the produce to other countries.

“We started a pilot programme in Kebbi State with 78,000 farmers, cultivating an average of one hectare, and that was when President Muhammadu Buhari launched the programme in March last year. The programme was to enable farmers to plant three times in year, two dry seasons cropping and one rainy season cropping.

“I am telling you now that Kebbi State has exceeded one million tonnes of rice. Not only Kebbi; Ebonyi State has keyed into it. We were there last week and Ebonyi is to give us over 1.2 million tonnes of rice in one year. They are harvesting now, they are bagging and they are milling. Nigerians are booking their Christmas rice in Abakaliki.

“Abia State has ordered rice from Ebonyi State. Other states are keying in. In Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto and Cross River, rice is coming up. Nigerians are planting and producing rice. You need to taste Nigerian rice; it is fresh; not the nine-year old rice from Vietnam, Thailand and India. Let us feed ourselves. Our rice is healthier; it is not preserved with chemicals.

“We have been to Anambra, Niger, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Cross River and Ebonyi states just to ensure that this is not another talk show. We have seen the harvest of rice, which brought me to say that the harvest for this year has so far outstripped our projections. By the end of 2017, Nigeria will not only meet our national demand, which is between six and seven tonnes per year, but we will exceed it and we will have rice to export to other countries,” Okoroafor said.

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