The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has described the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi as very passionate about agriculture and matters concerning the youth. The minister made this assertion in Abuja during the visit of the king to talk about agriculture. Ogbeh described the Ooni as “a patron of the young agriculture graduates associate, from all the parts of the country.”
He said: “The Ooni brought them first to talk to me about what they are doing, what they intend to do and what the government can do, joining hands together. His particular concern was on the situation with fertiliser. That the prices have gone so high that urea is selling now in some areas for N20,000, which is a concern we too have raised here, because, after the disruption of the distribution channel early in the year, we have never been able to recapture that flow. And the manufacturers who claim to have capacity to meet our demands don’t seem to be meeting the demands.
“One major company says their bagging machinery is faulty, which is what has made it difficult for them to have fertiliser for distribution,” the minister continued. “Some people have suspected that they are exporting instead of selling in the local market. The other had a period of shutdown when they were doing their turn-around maintenance; all that has resulted in exploitation by the distributors.”
Ogbeh expressed concern that “at N20,000 per bag of urea, that definitely is not good for agriculture, as the effect of that on production will definitely be felt.”
He expressed optimism about a bumper harvest, stressing that “it may not be as great as we should have had if fertiliser distribution was flowing.”
The other issue he mentioned was that of the agrodealers. He added: “We inherited a debt of N87 biillion. If you compare that to our total budget of N34 billion, it means that even our entire budget in the ministry cannot settle that debt, especially because state governments also reneged on their counterpart funding issue.
“So, we got stuck. These are the problems we are dealing with. We are hoping to get beyond that. The federal government has paid N20 billion out of that N67 billion. We are looking for money to pay the balance. We are also looking for money to implement our own budget. So, everything has got cut down in this whole business of financial constraints facing us. These are the issues he came to raise with us. He suggested that we may have to look at options. But, over and above that, he is very passionate about agriculture or youth issues and he keeps encouraging us to carry on.”
The minister disclosed : “We are going to have a programme for youth in agriculture. One of them mentioned that the universities of agriculture were set up to train young farmers. Unfortunately, they are dealing more with issues of accounting, law, pharmacy and medicine, which we are trying to redress now, because that is not their mandate. But government is working on that. We should have that sorted out shortly.”