By Mohammed Lawal
Zaria – The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, said on Tuesday that Nigeria’s estimated annual demand for maize was almost eight million tonnes.
Mrs Karima Babangida, Director, Federal Department of Agricultural Extension, said this at a seven-day training workshop for women on modern skills of maize production, processing and marketing.
NAN reports that the training, held at the Institute for Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, was organised by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development toward actualising the diversification drive of the Federal Government.
The director, who spoke through Mrs Sugra Mahmud, an Assistant Director, said the annual supply/production of maize was put at between 7 million and 7.2 million tonnes.
According to her, the shortfall is being bridged by import, which depletes Nigeria’s foreign reserve and exports the much-needed jobs to other countries.
“This is a situation that is unacceptable and inimical to our economic development as a nation.
“Therefore, there is a huge market opportunity that can absorb additional local production.”
Babangida explained that the training was in line with the present administration’s efforts at addressing the problem of unemployment in the country.
The director observed that the scourge of unemployment had not only become a major threat to the quality of life, but also adversely affected daily activities as well as security of lives and property.
“Under the Green Alternative – Agriculture Promotion Policy of the present administration, the issues of unemployment, wealth creation and food security are being addressed.
“The present administration recognizes the need to harness and mobilise the resources of the country into actionable agricultural programmes that are people- oriented in order to make meaningful impact on the economy.
“As you are all aware, agriculture is pivotal to the success of the current administration’s economic diversification drive.”
She said the training was under a programme known as the Youth and Women in Agribusiness Investment.
Babangida said the programme sought to capture beneficiaries with requisite skills to undertake enterprises along different priority value chains that had food and nutritional security.
“The focus on women and youth is a very strategic one as women account for about 49 per cent of the country’s population while youth account for over 62 per cent.
“In addition, women are mostly engaged in informal sector while unemployment among them rose to 47.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2016.
“Therefore, no meaningful development can take place without empowering these two groups,” the director said.