FG Earmarks N600bn to Boost Food Security

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono

•Says Dangote fertiliser crucial to govt’s agricultural agenda

By James Emejo in Abuja and Peter Uzoho in Lagos

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Sabo Nanono, has said the federal government will inject over N600 billion as stimulus response into the agriculture sector.

The intervention, which targets small-scale farmers, seeks to ensure food security and sustainability, he added.

Nanono also described the Dangote Fertiliser Limited as crucial to the achievement of the federal government’s agricultural transformation agenda aimed at boosting food security.

Speaking during a tour of Dangote Fertiliser Plant at the weekend, he said 2.4 million farmers would benefit from the stimulus package in the first instance.

According to him, to avoid the abuse of government’s funds as well as its good intentions, the support will be in the form of inputs and not cash as was the practice in the past.

Nanono said the closure of all international borders, necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic had made it evident that Nigeria could feed itself.

In a statement by Director of Information at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs.Theodore Ogaziechi, the minister also pledged to support the Lagos State’s farming community with rural roads, solar lighting and water holes to encourage productivity.

He also promised to collaborate with the state in boosting fishing in order to tap the potentials of its marine endowments and reduce the importation of fish.

On the Dangote Fertiliser complex, Nanono said its operations were important to the achievement of the government’s agenda of boosting food security.

The minister called on the company to assist the federal government’s agricultural mechanisation scheme as well as extension services for small-scale farmers.

According to him, Dangote’s support is needed for the success of the mechanisation scheme, which is expected to cover 632 local government areas (LGAs) nationwide.

“It is very clear that Dangote, in one way or the other, will help in this programme by the federal government,” he said.

Nanono said the investment by the President of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, in fertiliser production would contribute to improved farm yields and agricultural productivity, which are critical to Nigeria’s long-term food security.

The minister commended Dangote for keying into the federal government’s Presidential Initiative on Fertiliser aimed at bringing down the cost of the commodity.

“The capacity of Dangote Fertiliser is enough to change the way fertiliser is being used in this country. We are going to complement his efforts and support him in this regard. The challenge of the supply of fertiliser is going to be solved by the Dangote fertiliser plant. I can now go home and sleep,” he said.

According to him, the federal government wants to make sure that Nigerians have enough food to eat.

“We can only achieve the objective with enough fertiliser in the country. I am extremely proud of Aliko Dangote for what he is doing in this country. I think no other person has probably done half of what he is doing in the area of investment. If we can have just an additional two of his type, this country will be completely different. I think all we have been trying to do as far as agricultural development is concerned, has been captured by the Dangote fertiliser plant. Nigeria has the potential for agriculture. Obviously, Dangote Fertiliser is going to help the government and the farmers,” he said.

Nanono stated that small-scale farmers would benefit from Dangote Fertiliser.

“There is a need for us to support small-scale farmers who have been helping the government with respect to food security. Once the small-scale farmers get all the necessary support, there will be an agricultural revolution in this country.

“Some of you will remember when the federal government initiated a policy to support local production of rice in Nigeria and discourage the importation of rice. Some vested interests kicked against it. The breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of Nigerian borders show that the federal government took the right decision regarding rice policy. Now, we are eating our own rice. The small-scale farmers have also been contributing to Nigeria’s self-sufficiency in rice production in the country,” he said.

Giving an update on the fertiliser project, Group Executive Director, Strategy, Capital Projects & Portfolio Development, Dangote Industries Limited, Chief Devakumar Edwin, said the company had a well-equipped fertiliser soil testing laboratory to ensure the efficiency of the product for farmers.

“The laboratory will enable us to analyse and identify a particular soil deficiency. Applying the right fertiliser to the soil will enable it to yield maximum results. The goal of our soil testing is to provide an accurate assessment of the soil’s fertility to make fertiliser recommendations. A proper soil test will help ensure the application of enough fertiliser to meet the requirements of the crop while taking advantage of the nutrients already present in the soil.”