Abuja — The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, yesterday disclosed that rice importation into the country has dropped by 95 per cent in the last two years due to consistency in the federal government's efforts at drastically reducing importation of the food product into the country.
Ogbeh also said the federal government has achieved this feat despite the fact that some elements in the polity are bent on sabotaging the efforts at drastically reducing importation.
The minister disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at the second day of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA) and the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing system for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Agribusiness and Policy Linkage Conference, that hopes to see the implementation of the Agriculture component of the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP).
He decried heavy dependence on foreign products by the country irrespective of the dangers they pose.
"This country by and large have been taken hostage, some persons have refused to believe it but why are there no jobs, why so much poverty, nobody want to buy local thing because the importers have connections. They have ships, they have banking facilities and they persuade opinion makers that it is better and cheaper to import.
"We pass through so much struggle to have a foothold in our own market including rice and people think there is nothing wrong. They will tell you they prefer foreign rice even though what we produce is better and safer for them. The rice from Thailand has many challenges which they don't care to know, because if you grow rice for too long in a mashed land, there will be high content of acid in it. There's too much dependency on foreign goods just because it is foreign," he said.
However, he disclosed that despite the challenges, the country has made a lot of success in terms of eradicating rice importation and this is a plus to the country's economy.
"One example of success is in rice. As at September, 2015, this country was importing 644,131 tons of rice. Exactly two years later, that is September 2017, rice importation drops to 20, 000 tons; that's a 95 per cent drop.
"There are 12.2 million people growing rice in the country, producing paddy for the rice mills.
"In Kano alone, we have 1,421 rice mills. We have large fields in Anambra, Ebonyi, Nasarawa, Jigawa, kebbi and more are coming up, "he said.
Ogbeh also enumerated the challenges currently faced in agribusiness exporting to include funding which is access to credit, high interest rate agricultural mechanization, packaging, and quality. Other include seed development, research development and marketing. He called for more private partnership as according to him, 'government is only steering the wheel'.
The Managing Director of NIRSAL, Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed in an interview with LEADERSHIP said as events are unfolding, the government is laying down policy to ensure that the private sector succeed in Agribusiness.
"What you see today represent what the government is looking at, how the private sector can lead and how the policies affect that leadership. The good thing about investment is that ones you can be able to proof a risk return profile and you can de-risk it, then investment will
"What you observed today is the mandate of NIRSAL as handed to us by the CBN. How do you get actors from the value chain from primary production all the way through processes, retailing, and domestic markets to export?
Mrs Alaba Lawson, President, NACCIMA said all hands must be on deck to achieve success and called on all to come on board.