By Victor Ogunje in Ado Ekiti
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, has disclosed that the country is losing a staggering sum of $9 billion annually due to poor investment in agribusiness.
The minister said that Nigeria was also losing over 240 million metric tonnes of fish in the world market that could have increased foreign earnings and boost the economy before the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Lokpobiri stated that due to government’s laxity, many of the country’s agricultural products were being exported to other West African nations and branded in the names of those countries after processing, making Nigeria to lose revenue earnings.
The minister spoke at Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) on Sunday during a lunch organised in his honour by ABUAD’s founder, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN).
Lokpobiri urged all Nigerian universities to emulate ABUAD’s landmark exploits in farming, describing the university as setting a pace for the country to actualise food security status.
He expressed fear that the country may witness serious famine in future with the projection that its population may hit 250 million by 2030, warning that it is high time governments started planning to checkmate such occurrence.
The minister promised that the federal government will partner ABUAD in the area of agriculture and training of young graduates to boost food production.
He said the 400-bed Afe Babalola University Teaching Hospital has launched the country into the world’s map of medical tourism, describing it as a wasteful effort for any Nigerian to be seeking medical treatment abroad with the facilities in the hospital.
“Before President Buhari came, Nigeria was losing $9 billion revenue earnings annually in the agric sector.
“In Nigeria, we are not producing enough fish to feed our population. That is why we are relying heavily on importation. The deficit between demand and supply was 2.5 million metric tonnes annually. This is about 320 containers. You can imagine the quantum of revenue we lost to low production in this sector alone.
“Knowing that our products were being taken to other West African nations to be processed and rebranded, we introduced certification policy for all our products in order to have right and proper certificates for our products and in order not to affect the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) negatively.
“When I visited Belgium, the Minister of Agriculture told me the country’s annual revenue earning in agric sector was €35 billion. This is a country with less than five million population.
“He further told me that the difference between agriculture in Africa and the West is technology and innovation . That was why the federal government in partnership with the World Bank earmarked a sum of $250 million to train young graduates in agribusiness.
“Our universities must pay attentions to technology and innovation. They must emulate what ABUAD is doing in agriculture sector, because I wonder what would happen to us in future if we cannot feed just 180 million population.
“We are proud to say that ABUAD has become the pride of the nation. It is setting the standard for food security in Nigeria.
“All these accounted for why President Muhammadu Buhari said we must produce what we eat. He reduced taxes in agriculture to attract investors to Nigeria. We are also taking pragmatic steps to increase productivity in the sector,” he said.
On the ABUAD Teaching Hospital, Lokpobiri said: “The era when people are seeking medical tourism in Dubai, India and USA is gone. Why must you struggle to get visas again when you have ABUAD. The personnel and facilities there are second to none.”