The closure of Nigerian borders has energised rice farmers in the country who are now smiling to the bank due, the Minister for State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri, has said.
According to a statement sent to PREMIUM TIMES by the agriculture ministry, Mr Shehuri said this at the Livestock House of the ministry in Mando, Kaduna State on Saturday.
"They are smiling to the banks with the impressive sales they have recorded and this opportunity has created more jobs, not only in rice production but also livestock and other commodities," he said.
Apart from the closure of the borders, which the minister says has benefitted the rice farmers, the federal government has also implemented major policies to favour local production of rice, Nigeria's major staple food.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the government's Anchor Borrowers Programme, despite its numerous challenges, has contributed to local rice production.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria, "the programme thrust of the Anchor Borrowers Programme is provision of farm inputs in kind and cash (for farm labour) to smallholder farmers to boost production of these commodities, stabilise inputs supply to agro-processors and address the country's negative balance of payments on food."
The programme, among other things, is expected to increase banks' financing to the agriculture sector and to create a new generation of farmers as well as to boost employment.
In his speech, the agric minister described Nigerian farmers as a very determined and hard-working workforce.
He said they work tirelessly even without assistance from the government to improve the country's economy and put food on the table of Nigerian homes.
"We look at agriculture as an enterprising business and we assure Nigerians of better jobs from the type of growth that will result from it," he said.
The minister also assured farmers that the government will sell equipment to them at 50 per cent discount.
This is to support and make farming equipment accessible to local farmers in order to achieve food sufficiency and economic growth in Nigeria, he said.
Mr Shehuri said his visit was basically to ensure that the staff and management team of the ministry in the Kaduna office worked in tandem with the objectives of the government in improving the farmers capacity towards achieving food security for the teeming population of Nigeria.
"We will ensure that the equipment and farm inputs procured by the ministry get directly to the people they are meant for (farmers) because they are the bedrock of government investment designed to achieve the government's policy of economic diversification and growth through the agricultural sector," he said.
The minister said farming equipment would be subsidised to show the government's commitment and determination to improve farmers production capacity and actualise the food sufficiency policy and income generation of the current administration.
In his remarks, the North West Zonal Director, FMARD, Mathew Owolabi, pledged the support of the zone to achieve its mandate and the Next Level agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari in the agriculture sector, in terms of job creation, economic growth and food security.