Determined to beef up local production of rice and drive rice sufficiency, the Federal Government has promised to provide additional 50 rice mills this year, which would add up to 110 already procured last year to assist, nearly 12 million rice farmers in the country to drive its rice sufficiency targets.
Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, dropped the hint during a retreat with directors at the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, which has the theme: ‘Unlocking Institutional Effectiveness of the Green Alternative’.
The Minister, who expressed optimism on Nigeria’s ability to be self sufficient in rice production by the end of the year, revealed that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture had already made provisions for the 50 mills in the budget estimates of 2017.
He noted that the rice mills will be spread across the country and would be managed by private individuals and co operatives.
The presence of the mill will stimulate rice growing and we are optimistic that with what we did last year, in Kebbi, Ebonyi,Kano, and Anambra states, and by end of the year, we are optimistic, we would end rice importation with the steps we are already taking to support our nearly 12 million farmers,” Ogbeh said.
Meanwhile, Ogbeh has charged the directors in the Ministry on the need to spear-head implementation of government policy.
He said Nigeria must strive to to achieve self sufficiency in food.
“Imagine chaos in Nigeria, where are we going to go, with the latest figure from the National Bureau of Statistics stating we are currently 193 million people?
“If we don’t lay foundation to feed ourselves, in the next 30 years, we would be 450 million people. This is the time to act and lay the foundation for the future,” he said.
He spoke further on the strategies by the Ministry to advance food sufficiency.
“The Federal Government has commenced the procedure of recieving back the universities of agriculture into the Ministry to perform their statutory duties better. We have been having meeting with the Ministry of Education because the law setting up the colleges of agriculture was specific on their mandates. All these we are doing to ensure we have the right impact of research in driving our food sufficiency,” Ogbeh said.
It would be noted that Nigeria is one of the 12 rice consuming countries in the world, and the highest net importer of rice in Africa.
Meanwhile, domestic demand for the product is between 5 to 6 million metric tonns annually, while gulping $5 million on importation, which is no longer sustainable due largely to lack of forex.