Chief Audu Ogbeh

Aminat Isah

The federal government says it is targeting 5% lending rate to farmers to ensure Nigeria attains self sufficiency in food production to her citizens and also exits food importation.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, disclosed this in Dutse, Jigawa state on Monday, at a special town hall meeting on agriculture, organised by the Minister of Information and Culture.

It would be recalled that the reduction of interest rate on lending to farmers to 9% has ignited a revolution in agriculture in the country while the ongoing reform of the Bank of Agriculture, which
will be completed by the end of this year is expected to give rise to the 5% lending rate to farmers.

According to Ogbeh, the revolution in agriculture by the present administration has turned Nigeria into an exporter of agricultural products.

“In July this year, the Tin Can Island published a report that agricultural export has risen by 150%. Containers leaving Nigeria are no longer going empty,” he said.

In a Similar vain, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, warned Nigerians not expect support from any food exporting country for her ongoing policy to ensure self sufficiency in food production.

The minister cited a recent report which said that Nigeria imported 400,000 Metric Tonnes (of rice) more this year, as the country reduced rice importation by 90%, as the handiwork of detractors who are bent on dampening the resolve of the government to exit food importation.

He said: “Please permit me to alert Nigerians to the reality out there: In pursuing our agricultural revolution, which will ultimately lead to self sufficiency in the national staples, we should not expect accolades and support from outside, especially from countries that have hitherto been the main exporters of food items such as rice to Nigeria.

“Every nation pursues its national interest, and it is definitely not in their interest for Nigeria to produce what it consumes, because it means you will no longer import from such countries.

“It is in that context that Nigerians should see the recent fake news that Nigeria imported 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity of
rice imported in 2017. The report, quoting the 2018 United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report, also posited
that Nigeria’s local rice production is dropping. When the figures were challenged, they could not provide any empirical ground for the
report.”

He said contrary to the report, the Central Bank of Nigeria revealed that it had not allocated any foreign exchange for the importation of
rice this year because rice importation has reduced to the barest minimum.

“So those who claimed that Nigeria imported 400,000 MT of rice more
this year have not been truthful,” the Minister said.

While recalling that the conspiracy to thwart Nigeria’s push toward self sufficiency in rice did not start today, he said in 2015, the government was put under undue pressure to import rice ostensibly to make up for a massive shortage, when in the real sense there was a glut of paddy rice produced locally.

Lai Mohammed said there is no doubt that the Buhari Administration has made a giant stride in the area of Agriculture, which is widely regarded as one of the success stories of the Administration.

The Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammad Badaru Abubakar, had led the four Ministers on the tour of an agricultural exhibition where farm
products including processed and packaged local rice, packaged soya beans, sesame seeds, curry powder, fruit juice, fish, goats, rams a well as farming implements were on display.

Other Ministers at the Town Hall Meeting were the Minister of Water Resources, Engineer Suleiman Adamu, and the Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Hajia Aisha Abubakar.

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