THE Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, has disclosed that the Federal Government will enter into a partnership with the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD) and the Ekiti State government in the area of rice production.
This is just as ABUAD has announced that it will hold a rice summit in the state soon to, among other things, fashion out ways to boost the production of the commodity.
Chief Ogbeh, who was in Ekiti State recently, said this was among the plans of the federal government as it has decided to ban the importation of rice by the end of 2017.
The Agric Minister said in order to further boost internal production of the commodity and enhance the country’s comparative advantage in rice and yam production, the federal government would sign a memorandum of understanding with ABUAD and Ekiti State government in the two critical commodities.
After a visit to vast, highly mechanised ABUAD farms, he Minister also unveiled his ministry’s intention to supply ABUAD with 20 tonnes of rice seedlings in the next planting season to boost rice production.
Explaining the reason behind the policy to ban rice importation, Ogbeh hinted that the country has enough internal production capacity that he said could sustain home consumption and meet foreign exchange earnings that can guarantee diversification of the economy.
Ogbeh said the current economic recession being experienced under Buhari’s government has helped the federal government to think outside the box and had succeeded in bringing the deserved revolution to agriculture sector.
The Minister assured Nigerians that the skyrocketing prices of foods in the country will soon crash, saying specifically that that of rice will happen within the next two weeks.
“Of recent, prices of diesel increased from N130 pr litre to about N280 which makes the cost of a tractor to move up to N14 million from N7 million . The interest rate on every loan given to farmers also went up, so the aggregate of all these factors caused increase in the prices of food items.
“We are concerned with the plights of Nigerians. We knew that many are hungry but we are working round it because it doesn’t speak well of us that we are in government and people are hungry.
“But the major challenge is that Nigerians produced children more than other Africa nations put together and youths are not interested in farming and the question now is that, who will feed all these children?
“Nigeria has about 150million population and if these people can’t be fed with food, then they will be fed with anarchy and chaos,” Chief Ogbeh cautioned.
The ABUAD’s founder, Chief Afe Babalola (SAN), praised Buhari’s administration for bringing revolution to the country’s agriculture sector that had been neglected by successive governments, describing the current economic recession as a blessing in disguise.
“To support the FG initiative, this university for the past three years have been holding annual Afe Babalola Agriculture EXPO (ABAFEX), where we give N1m to the best farmer in Ekiti and N250,000 to the best in 16 local governments.
“This year, we intend to hold Rice summit with intention to expose Ekiti potential in the production of the commodity,” Babalola said.