The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has disclosed that about 13 million Nigerians were on the farms growing rice, adding that the number could scale up to 20 million in the shortest time from now.
The minister made the disclosure at the signing of EPC contract agreement on the establishment of the 10 integrated large scale rice processing plants between the ministry, MV Agro Engineers Nigeria Limited and MV Agro Engineers PVT Limited, India yesterday in Abuja.
Ogbeh, who decried the $5 million spending on rice importation daily, said the acquisition of additional 10 rice mills with 3,000 metric tonnes per annum capacity would expedite federal government's effort in achieving self-sufficiency in rice product.
"This ministry has adopted a system to hand-walk industrialists into prosperity. That is why government buys the machines and resells investors who will manage affairs over a period. It is a very cardinal principle and is working for and we are happy about it.
"The issue of credit has blocked the way of the youth and they can't make any success of their lives despite having ideas.
"Whatever subsidy, support and discounts we give is not a loss; is on the long term a bigger profit we make than anything in cash. We know you can make good machines and please make the best for us because if you do well now you will do more in future.
"We assure you more mills would be bought in the future. Supply adequate stock of spare parts and we are insistent in achieving rice sufficiency production because we simply can't afford to spend over $5 million a day in importing rice.
"We don't have the money and I don't think any country can afford that line of expenditure and hope to survive. Not that we hate anyone is just that we love ourselves and there is no harm in that.
"We are glad today 13 million Nigerians are on the farms growing rice and that number can increase to 20 million in the shortest time from now. So we have to use our rice, eventually our sugar, milk, beans, Maize, chicken, beef, and others," he said.
Minister of state for agriculture and rural development, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, said that Nigerian rice has been reputed as the best in the world, noting that additional 10 rice mills in the country would significantly boost production.