The Nigerian government says it can no longer sustain the importation of foreign rice which has continued to hamper the growth and development of the nation’s peasant farmers who are into local rice production.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, made the statement during a visit to the Ettem Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State.
The minister was accompanied by the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Rice Production, Governor Abubakar Bagudu, and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr Godwin Emefiele.
It was undertaken in a bid to ascertain the agricultural potentials in the state and explore possible partnerships.
The team was taken to the Ebonyi State Governor Dave Umahi to the Ekaeze Rice farm in Ivo Local Government Area, Ettem Amagu Rice Farm in Ikwo Local Government Area, Ikwo irrigation dam and the Abakaliki Rice Mill.
Governor Umahi while enumerating the efforts of his administration in the development of local rice production in the state, solicited for the efforts of the Federal Government and the CBN in improving agriculture and the value chain, noting that there is no way agriculture will develop without support.
He said that with the Rice Anchor Borrower Programme of the Central Bank, Nigeria would be positioned to be one of the rice growing nations in the world.
While addressing some group of local farmers at the Ettem Amagu Rice Farm, Mr Ogbeh disclosed that there had been tremendous pressure on the government to import rice in order to meet the demand for the commodity, but stressed that with the downturn in the nation’s foreign reserve the country cannot continue to import rice.
He said that President Buhari had issued a directive to the Ministry to focus on Agriculture especially rice production.
He said the country had huge potential to grow rice in commercial quantity.
“Each ship load of rice imported into the country displaces 12, 000 farmers from employment,” he said.
The minister insisted that it does not make any economic sense to continue to spend scarce foreign exchange resources on rice importation.
On his part, the Chairman of the Presidential Taskforce on Rice Production said with the support of the Federal Government and the CBN through the Rice Anchor Borrower Programme of the Federal Government, which has brought about successful testimonies in Kebbi State, Nigeria would become one of the top nations in rice production.
However, the governor of the CBN said machines and financial support would be made available to farmers to help address challenges they face.
He, however, commended the Ebonyi State government for their commitment to encouraging local rice production and suggested a partnership between the CBN, Federal Government and the Ebonyi State Government’s in rice production.
Mr Emefiele said the partnership could produce 400,000 metric tonnes of rice per cropping season, amounting to almost a million metric tonnes a year to be actualised.
The Federal Government has expressed high hopes that the Anchor Borrower Programme would lift thousands of small farmers out of poverty and generate millions of jobs for unemployed Nigerians as well as make Nigeria a top rice production country.
Ebonyi State is one of the most agrarian in all states in Nigeria and made up predominantly of farmers, with savanna and semi-tropical vegetation. Its major agricultural potentials is in the local production of the famous Abakaliki rice which has made the state so popular and a commercial hub.