Determined to leverage on the successes in the agriculture sector, President Muhammadu Buhari said he will be inaugurating a Council on National Food Security, which he will personally lead.
At a meeting with key stakeholders in the Rice Value Chain ( RVC) at the Presidential Villa, Tuesday, the President said the Council will include Governors, key sector players in the agricultural sector, security agencies and Ministers.
The President however did not specify the functions of the Council, it is expected however that the Council can take proactive measures to build harmonious relationships amongst stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
Altercations between farmers and herdsmen has been a major threat to the federal government agric policies, threatening stability especially in the rural areas
The President commended the stakeholders in the RVC describing them as the engine room of the rice production program.
Nigeria’s paddy rice production is seen to have jumped to about 17 million metric tonnes of per annum, up from as little as 5.7 million metric tonnes two and half years ago.
“Your investment of over N300b located in some of the most remote, and indeed, most forgotten parts of the country. And a significant percentage of these investments were made during the recession. This shows you have great confidence in our policies and programs
“Our vision, as a Government, has always been to promote and support programs that will bring investments to these rural areas”
” I will be inaugurating a National Food Security Council that I will personally Chair. The council will include Governors, Ministers, Security Agencies and key stakeholders across the entire agricultural segments of farming, fisheries and livestock management”
Kebbi governor, Atiku Bagudu, a key player in the rice value chain, said “milling capacity has increased, with eight new mills commissioned last year alone with the installed milling capacity almost doubling”
“Rice Distributors particularly that of Iddo, G-Cappa and Elko market in Lagos, came to show confidence in the programme of the federal government of Mr. President as encapsulated in his statement: “Let’s grow what we eat, and eat what we grow.”
“The Distributors confirmed that Nigerian rice is better, more nutritious than the imported rice and they are willing to partner so that Nigerian rice will be the dominate rice in the country and indeed we should be able to be exporting” he said.
Government said it is still battling to contain the impact of the negative activities of smugglers despite the success recorded so far.
Bagudu attributed the challenge to the impact of ” other countries who are undertaking economic warfare on us, adding that “there is no nation in the world that can produce and sell to Nigeria freshly grown rice equivalent to what is produced in Nigeria at the prices that Nigeria farmers are selling”
“So, most of the prices of smuggled rice are discounted prices that reflect the age of that rice and in some aliases as identified by NAFDEC not fit for human consumption”
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Audu Ogbe, blamed the nation’s porous border for government inability to check smuggling
This country is not rich enough to spend close to $5 million a day importing rice. The total import bill before now was $1.6 billion a year”
According to him, “The borders are huge and porous. People walk in and out. People on the bothers who are relatives don’t see anything wrong in just walking across”
“So while we are struggling to give our people jobs and improve our economy, the smugglers aided by some of our neighbours are doing their best to make sure we don’t succeed. And the countries of these crops are aware of what they are doing to us.
“The last consignment ceased by the customs was rice in a petrol tanker. Now when you bring that out, wash it, bag it and sell it, you are poisoning people but they don’t care. They bring in chicken, fish. The chicken is preserved in fomalia which is dangerous to health. But anything goes as long as it is coming to Nigeria. Let me say that they are actually Nigerians actually conniving with smugglers because as far as they are concern it is their profit that is important more than the health of Nigerians.”
Tony Ailemen, Abuja