NIGERIA spends over 1.3 trillion naira yearly on the importation of basic food items including wheat, rice, sugar and fish, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina disclosed yesterday.
He revealed that the country which is now the largest importer of rice in the world spends over N356 billion yearly on the importation of the item alone, while it spends about one billion naira daily on rice importation.
Adesina, who spoke in Enugu during the National Council on Agriculture meeting, disclosed that what was sad about the entire thing was that the country was blessed with over 84 million hectares of arable land, perfect weather to grow crops all year round, low labour costs and fertile soils to be a major food exporting country.
Lamenting the effect of this on the economy, the minister stated that while the billions that country was spending goes into the pockets of farmers in India and Thailand, farmers in rice growing areas of Nigeria suffer the negative effects of dumped rice in the markets.
For instance, he cited Abakaliki growing local rice, farmers in Ogun State growing Ofada rice and farmers growing rice in the Kadawa Valley of Kano, stressing that they have become victims of the near lack of support, which ultimately has affected productivity.
He said that the Federal Government was poised to change the trend and revamp the agricultural sector with the transformation on rice production so as to provide food for the country’s teeming population as well as create employment.
“Our rice transformation action plan has as target to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production by 2015. To achieve this, we are working to ensure that Nigeria has 100 industrial scale rice mills with capacity in place, to mill 2.1 million metric tonnes of high quality rice that can compete with imported rice. They will be in operation in 18 months, run by the private sector”, he said.
Adesina said government was working to facilitate the purchase and installation of 18 large scale high quality cassava flour plants that would mill 1.3 million metric tonnes of high quality cassava flour per year, adding that they would be fully operational within the next 18 months, across all cassava growing areas of the country.