The federal government will save about N300 billion annually on the importation of wheat through the use of 20 per cent cassava flour for bread production. Mr. Labaran Maku, the Minister of Information, announced this on Monday in Abuja at a news conference, while briefing newsmen on the achievements of President Goodluck Jonathan's administration in 2012. Maku said the amount spent on wheat importation had so far been brought down by N200 billion following the improvement in the production and processing of cassava flour.
He said the government was exploring agriculture as a major area for job creation and wealth generation. The minister said that the transformation that had taken place in the sector in the last one year was aimed at ensuring food security, curbing importation and diversifying the economy.
He said that the "Growth Enhancement Scheme" initiated by the Minister of Agriculture was designed to support small scale farmers to enable them get access to fertilisers and seeds directly at affordable prices. Maku said that the introduction of the "Electronic Wallet System" (e-Wallet) for the distribution of fertilisers to farmers was aimed at eliminating corruption. "Nigeria is the first country in Africa to launch the e-Wallet system for the distribution of subsidised agro-inputs to farmers. "The focus is also to check corruption in fertiliser and seeds distribution to farmers, strengthen commodity and input market and start up staple crop processing zones across the country," he said.
Other achievements in the sector, he said, include the 'Cassava Transformation Programme' aimed at making the country the largest producer and processor of the product in the world. "The ministry is expanding market for cassava through the development of high quality cassava flour to substitute 40 per cent of wheat importation into the country," Maku said.
Maku said that market had been secured for 2.2 million metric tonnes of dried cassava chips in China, adding that one million metric tonnes of cassava chips were already on the way to that country. On rice, he said that the programme being implemented in collaboration with the private sector was to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production by 2015. "Through the initiative, high quality local rice is now processed in the country in commercial quantity. They include the Ebony rice, Ashi rice, Mikap rice, Sarauniya rice, Umza rice and Ofada rice. The new commercial rice processing mills in the country produce the best rice in the world, far better than any imported rice," the minister said.
He said that over two million jobs had been created in the agriculture sector in the last two years. (NAN)