The Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, said this on Monday at the inaugural harvest of a Tilapia fish farm of Premium Aquaculture Limited, Oyan Dam in Abeokuta.
He noted that access to funding remained one of the biggest challenges being faced by farmers in the country.
Lokpobiri lamented that commercial banks were not ready to fund agriculture, hence the decision by the FG to recapitalise BoA to boost the agricultural sector.
The minister said the nation’s fish demand stood at 3.1 metric tonnes per annum but currently hovering around 1.1 metric tonnes per annum, leaving a deficit of 2.1 metric tonnes.
He said the government resorted to backwards integration, encouraging local fish farmers to bridge the gap between demand and supply.
He said, “When this administration came on board, the supply was around 800,000 metric tonnes per annum, but due to government policy on fishery by the ministry of agriculture, the country is now doing 1.1 metric tonnes per annum.
“Fish is the cheapest source of protein for Nigerians, the challenge is not only meeting the Nigerians demand, but also that of West Africa. People even come from North Africa to buy fish and grains in Nigeria.”He, however, commended the company and other companies that have contributed immensely to local fish production, urging Nigerians to embrace agriculture, particularly fish farming “as both the rich and the poor need food to survive.”
In his remarks, a former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was a guest at the event, said the government should create enabling environment for investors in agriculture to thrive in the country.
Obasanjo called on the company to encourage outgrowers, to ease the transfer of technology and create employment opportunities for the youth.
He said, “Your work will be much more appreciated, if you can make what I call outgrowers -employment generation and wealth creation, for our youth, not only in Ogun state but throughout the country.
“I had on my hand something we call zero hunger, which we want to achieve in 2025 in Nigeria at the first instance, and in Africa, particularly, Africa South of Sahara.
“And we believe it is possible, if that happens, this kind of project, which has been pioneered by this company, has to be replicated in many parts of Nigeria, and indeed in many parts of Africa.”
The company’s Farm Manager, Mr. Govin Daraju, said the company intended to produce more than 20,000 metric tonnes of fish locally in the next five years.
He said: “The project site at Oyan dam, Abeokuta has 100 cages under operation and another 100 cages are under fabrication. The installation would be completed later this year.”