By Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
The federal government has approved the sum of N750billion Agricultural Intervention Fund to bolster the sector towards food sufficiency, and to diversify the economy.
Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, disclosed this during the inauguration of Senior Executive Course (SEC) 39 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategy Studies (NIPSS), Kuru-Jos, Plateau State, with the theme ‘Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) for the Development of Agriculture and Agro-Allied Industries in Nigeria.’
Osinbajo said the administration is committed to revamping the agricultural sector through the application of science, technology and innovation to the development of agriculture and agro-allied industries.
He said: “Developing the agricultural sector is a clear starting point of our quest for not only the diversification of our hitherto non cultural economy away from oil, it is also the only economy to grow fast enough to absorb the huge number of people that are unemployed.”
Represented by Plateau State Deputy Governor, Professor Sonni Tyoden, the acting president further disclosed that Nigeria has over 84 hectares of arable land, and that only 40 percent is cultivated with over 180 million populations.
He added that Nigeria internal market is big enough to support an optimum agricultural production and at the same time provide more work to the citizens.
He said the strategy of importing food to meet the shortfall food production was no longer tenable added that until recently Nigeria was spending over N1.3 billion annually on food importation.
”Given the current economy realities of our country, food importation has to be drastically reduced and eventually stopped”, he added.
In his opening remark, the acting Director General of NIPSS, Mr. Jonathan Juma, said the theme of SEC 39 was not only apt, but also urgent considering the fear being contemplated about possible food shortage in the country, as well as inadequate supply of agricultural raw materials to feed the nascent agro-allied industries in the country.
He said: ”Human population is increasing exponentially, while climate change with attendant implication for agricultural production is steering us in the face, the option to put in place vibrant and robust science, technology innovation policy is therefore imperative.”
According to him, the adoption of STI will further turn agriculture into real business by transforming seed selection and development, farm machinery, storage facilities, genetically produced plants, animal feeds, animal breeding, and transportation, adding that with all these, Nigeria will become a food giant, meeting its domestic need and possibly support the food needs of neighbouring countries through organised export.