Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, has revealed that Nigeria has taken a huge step forward in the exportation of dried cassava chips, by securing a contract to supply 2.2 million metric tonnes of the commodity worth $272 million to China.
The minister, who disclosed this in Lagos during a meeting with news editors, noted that it was a very important landmark for Nigerian agriculture. "For the first time we are exporting dry cassava chips to China in two separate contracts of 1.1 million metric tonnes; each worth $136 million," he said.
Adesina said that the government was doing everything possible to empower farmers for them to be able to process and preserve what they produce. "My interest as a minister of agriculture is to protect Nigerian farmers and provide them with markets to sell their commodities. We are rapidly modernising the agricultural sector to ensure that we match our production rating with our processing rating," he said.
He noted that when access to land, finance, and technology have been re-organised along market lines it would help to transform the status of small-holder farmers across the country.
"Biometric information data on farmers was developed by my ministry capturing 4.2 million farmers across Nigeria and the list will continue to be updated yearly. The fastest way to reach farmers today remain the mobile phones because we have to make use of modern techniques if we are serious about modernising farming in Nigeria," he said.
He explained that the so-called peasant farmers are only constrained by so many shackles and assured that his job is to ensure that those shackles are removed because no one sets out on a venture to be poor or wishes to remain poor.
He said that marketing institutions, which would be known as market and trade corporations would soon be set up to improve and add more value to the cocoa and cotton industries.
The minister disclosed that agriculture has the potential to generate jobs especially among the youths of this country. "We have designed a programme called the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme with the objective of developing young entrepreneurial commercial farmers that will make Nigerian agricultural sector competitive today and beyond," he stated.
He said that these new crop of young farmers will be known as 'nagro-preneurs' and would be provided access to land and cheaper mechanical inputs by the government. He disclosed that his ministry has also targeted women for access to labour-saving and modern processing technologies.
Lamenting the huge loss suffered by tomato farmers who lose over 45 per cent of their post-harvest, the minister assured that efforts are ongoing to mitigate the negative trend through the provision of basic infrastructure that will link the farms and the market.
"In collaboration with other ministries such as power, transport, communication and others government through the staple food processing zone will concentrate on developing infrastructure in the areas of high food production," he said.