By Ibi Imisi
Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has warned Nigerians not to expect support from any food exporting country for Nigeria’s ongoing policy to ensure self sufficiency in food production.
The Minister who issued the warning at a Special Town Hall Meeting on Agriculture in Dutse, Jigawa State yesterday cited a recent report which said that Nigeria imported 400,000 Metric Tons (of rice) more this year, even though the country has reduced rice importation by 90%, as the handiwork of detractors who are bent on dampening the resolve of the government to exit food importation.
“Please permit me to alert Nigerians to the reality out there; in pursuing our agricultural revolution, which will ultimately lead to self sufficiency in the national staples, we should not expect accolades and support from outside, especially from countries that have hitherto been the main exporters of food items such as rice to Nigeria.
“Every nation pursues its national interest, and it is definitely not in their interest for Nigeria to produce what it consumes, because it means you will no longer import from such countries.
“It is in that context that Nigerians should see the recent fake news that Nigeria imported 400,000 metric tons more than the quantity of rice imported in 2017. The report, quoting the 2018 United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report, also posited that Nigeria’s local rice production is dropping. When the figures were challenged, they could not provide any empirical ground for the report,” the minister said.
Speaking further, he said contrary to the report, the Central Bank of Nigeria revealed that it had not allocated any foreign exchange for the importation of rice this year because rice importation has reduced to the barest minimum.
“So those who claimed that Nigeria imported 400,000 MT of rice more this year have not been truthful,” the Minister added.
While recalling that the conspiracy to thwart Nigeria’s push toward self sufficiency in rice did not start today, he said in 2015, the government was put under undue pressure to import rice ostensibly to make up for a massive shortage, when in the real sense there was a glut of paddy rice produced locally.
Alhaji Mohammed said there is no doubt that the Buhari Administration has made a giant stride in the area of Agriculture, which is widely regarded as one of the success stories of the Administration.
In his remarks, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the reduction of interest rate on lending to farmers to 9% has ignited a revolution in agriculture in the country.
Chief Ogbeh said with the reform of the Bank of Agriculture, which will be completed by the end of this year, the government is targeting 5% lending rate to farmers.
The Minister said the revolution in agriculture by the present administration has now turned Nigeria into an exporter of agricultural products.
“In July this year, the Tin Can Island published a report that Agricultural export has risen by 150%. Containers leaving Nigeria are no longer going empty,” he said.
Earlier, the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, had led the four Ministers who came for the Special Town Hall Meeting on the tour of an agricultural exhibition where farm products including processed and packaged local rice, packaged soya beans, sesame seeds, curry powder, fruit juice, fish, goats, rams as well as farming implements were on display.
Other Ministers at the Town Hall Meeting were the Minister of Water Resources, Engineer Suleiman Adamu, and the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar.