President Muhammadu Buhari has said he took deliberate steps to shore up rice production in the country, surpassing what his predecessor could not achieve in seven straight years.
According to the President, he inherited 12 rice mills as at 2015 when he mounted the saddle of leadership, but has been able to turn around the fortunes of the sector, such that Nigeria is now self sufficient in rice production.
He said this on Tuesday, when he met with Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, Rice Millers Association and Rice Distributors, including the Central Bank Governor Godwin Emefiele and the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh.
While addressing stakeholders at the meeting, the President said between 2016 and 2018, eight new rice mills came on stream, an equivalent of four new mills per annum.
He regretted that Nigerians abandoned agriculture for oil, despite economic potentials inherent in it, stressing that since the turn of his administration, the tide has changed for the better.
He said, “Not too long ago, our nation was predominantly driven by the rural economy. Indeed, Nigeria’s backbone was built by the farmers. Somehow, we as a society abandoned the Agriculture sector of our economy. Agriculture became an afterthought and we forced our farmers into poverty.
“Thankfully, Nigerians have now woken up to the fact that it is an embarrassment for us, as a nation, to import most of what we eat, given the great natural gifts of our country.
“We have the fertile land, we have water and the manpower to feed ourselves. Therefore, we have no reason to import essential foodstuffs.
“When we came in 2015, there were thirteen rice mills in Nigeria. Twelve of these were built between 2009 and 2015. This was an average of two mills per annum. But my team and I felt more could be done. And we put in place measures and policies to unlock the potential of this sector and thus, increase the rate of investments.
“You will all recall that in November 2015, I was in Birnin Kebbi to launch the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers program and also kick off the dry season rice farming.
“Since then, the Vice President and I have commissioned a record number of agricultural projects and programs, from rice, to wheat, to cashew, to animal feed, to fertiliser, to drinks processing and many more.”
Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu, who led the rice stakeholders to the Villa, told State House reporters that Nigeria currently produces about 17 million metric tons of paddy per annum, up from 5.7 million metric tons in 2015.
He said Buhari expressed displeasure at the activities of smugglers who daily flood the country with foreign rice, thereby compromising efforts of government in rice production.
“In Nigeria today, we are almost producing about 17 million metric tonnes of paddy per annum, up from as little as 5.7 million metric tonnes two and half years ago, our milling capacity has increased, eight new mills were commissioned last year alone with the installed milling capacity almost doubling.
“The rice distributors, particularly that of Iddo, G-Cappa and Eko market in Lagos, have come to show confidence in the programme of the federal government as encapsulated in Buhari’s statement: ‘Let’s grow what we eat, and eat what we grow’.
“Distributors have confirmed that Nigerian rice is better, more nutritious than imported rice and they are willing to partner so that Nigerian rice will be the dominant rice in the country and indeed we should be able to export.”
Commenting on the smuggling activities, Bagudu said other countries are undertaking economic warfare on Nigeria, bringing in poor quality rice which has outlived its lifespan and selling them at discounted prices to other nationals.
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His words, “Yesterday the Economic Management Team discussed the issue of smuggling and today it was an important feature at this meeting too.
“It has been recognised, everyone who knows Mr. President’s commitment to the Nigerian economy will appreciate his annoyance with smuggling and smugglers.
“But it is a collective responsibility and so we want all Nigerians to participate in this menace of importing these commodities, rice.
“The narrative out there is wrong, other countries are undertaking economic warfare on us, 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 cases as identified by NAFDAC not fit for human consumption.”
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The post I Have Produced More Rice Than My Predecessor, Buhari Boasts appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.
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Author: Innocent Oweh