By Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has disclosed that the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari will stop importation of rice in 2017.
Explaining the reason behind the policy, Ogbeh hinted that the country has enough internal production that can sustain home consumption and meet foreign exchange earnings that can guarantee diversification of the economy.
In order to further boost internal production of the commodity and enhance the country’s comparative advantages in rice and yam
production, Ogbeh stated that the federal government will sign a memoranda of understanding with Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) and Ekiti State Government in the two critical sectors.
He unveiled his ministry’s intention to supply ABUAD with 20 tonnes of rice seedlings in the next planting season to boost rice production internally.
The minister said these in Ado Ekiti at the weekend during a visit to ABUAD’s farm and Ekiti State government.
Ogbeh said the current economic recession being experienced under Buhari’s government has helped the federal government to think outside the box and had succeeded in bringing the deserved revolution to agriculture sector .
The minister assured Nigerians that the skyrocketing prices of foods in the country will soon crash, saying specifically that that of rice would happen within the next two weeks.
“Of recent, prices of diesel increased from N130 per litre to about N280 which makes the cost of a tractor to move up to N14 million from N7 million. The interest rate on every loan given to farmers also went up, so the aggregate of all these factors caused increase in the prices of food items.
“We are concerned with the plights of Nigerians. We knew that many are hungry but we are working round it because it doesn’t speak well of us that we are in government and people are hungry.
“But the major challenge is that Nigerians produced children more than other Africa nations put together and youths are not interested in farming and the question now is that, who will feed all these children?
“Nigeria has about 150million population and if these people can’t be fed with food, then they will be fed with anarchy and chaos,” Ogbeh warned.
The founder of ABUAD, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), praised Buhari’s administration for bringing revolution to the country’s agriculture sector that had been neglected by successive governments, describing the current economic recession as a blessing in disguise.
“To support the federal government initiative, this university for the past three years has been holding the annual Afe Babalola Agriculture Expo (ABAFEX), where we give N1million to the best farmer in Ekiti and N250,000 to the best in 16 local governments.
“This year, we intend to hold rice summit with intention to expose Ekiti potential in the production of the commodity,” Babalola said.