· Ambode says over N3bn spent on food daily
The Vice President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Sani Dangote, yesterday made a startling revelation that Nigeria still spent a whopping sum of $700 million to import 90 per cent of salts her citizens consumed annually despite foreign exchange crisis crippling the country’s domestic economy.
In a closely related development, also, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, disclosed that the residents of the state “consumes over N3 billion worth of food items daily,” which he said, represented a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector.
The duo reeled out these figures at the first Lagos Food Security Summit and Exhibition held at Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja where they both called for strategic investment in and development of the sector.
The summit, which was held under a theme: ‘Actualising Sustainable Food Security in Lagos State: A New, Comprehensive Agenda,’ was designed to foster food security in the state; explore its agricultural value chain potential and maximise its comparative advantage in the sector.
At the summit, Dangote said it was indeed pathetic that 90 percent of the salts consumed in Nigeria “is imported despite the availability of Atlantic Ocean in the country,” from which he said the product could be extracted and refined for human consumption.
He explained that there “is a process that can allow us take the water and extract salt from Atlantic Ocean. And this will allow the country to keep $700 million spend annually importing salt.”
Also, Dangote emphasised the economic value of coconut industry, which he said, had been abandoned for years despite its potentials to generate huge foreign exchange annually.
He acknowledged that the coconut industry “has been abandoned for years. From this industry alone, more than $1billion can be generated annually considering the numerous benefits attached to coconut. This is aside the employment that will emanate from it.”
He, therefore, urged the state government “to consider developing hybrid greenhouses where we can develop hybrid horticultures, fruits and other crops,” noting that the installation would afford the state the opportunity “to transport food produce to other states.”
He, also, asked the state government “to embark on food preservation in order to ensure the availability of food items all-round the year. When there is no food security, there will not be any meaningful development in Nigeria. There are some challenges with availability of land. Though the state has confronted with large water body, but it is advantage to the state.”
Giving insight into reforms his administration had brought into agricultural sector, Ambode said the state’s core policy thrust towards achieving food security “is to maximise the comparative advantage and establish partnerships with other states of the federation in specific areas.”
He specifically cited a landmark partnership was sealed with the Kebbi State Government for the development of agricultural commodities such as rice, wheat, groundnut, onion, maize and beef value chain. We believe that this partnership can result in the supply of 70 per cent of the total national rice consumption.
“We have also acquired agricultural land in other neighbouring States of Ogun and Oyo as well as Abuja. Specifically, 500 hectares of farm land has been acquired for rice cultivation in Eggua, Ogun State, 84.7 hectares at Okinni in Oshogbo for oil palm processing, among others,” the governor explained.
Ambode, however, noted that one of the challenges the current economic recession brought to the fore “is the urgent need to develop a sustainable programme that will guarantee food security for our people.
“As a country, in the past, we spent billions of foreign exchange on importation of food and food items many of which can be cultivated in our country. The current economic challenges have called for a review of this approach and the redirection of our energies to food production.
“Nigeria is blessed with very good arable land and a climate that supports food production. We can achieve food security and create employment opportunities for our teeming youth if we put in place the right policies and incentives that will attract significant investment into the sector.
“Every nation must be able to feed its citizens without resorting to importation. There is no alternative to achieving food security other than tilling the land and embrace best practices that will improve efficiency in the agricultural value chain,” the governor explained.