Privatise Rice Mills, Minister Tells NDDC

akinwunmi adeshinaThe Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is set to partner with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) for the privatisation of the two rice processing plants built by the Commission at Elele-Alimini in Rivers State and Mbiabet-Ikpe in Akwa Ibom State.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, said this at a business meeting between his ministry and top officials of the NDDC, led by the commission’s Managing Director, Bassey Dan-Abia.

He promised that his ministry would support the re-activation of the two rice mills with a combined capacity of 210 metric tonnes per day, but suggested that they would be better managed by private investors.

The meeting, which was attended by experts from both sides, was held at the Minister’s conference room in Abuja with expectations that it would bring the dividend of the Act establishing the NDDC to the people of the Niger Delta region in the area of agriculture.

Dr. Adesina had assured Nigerians that the two rice processing plants would be revived through a private sector-driven model as “Government does not really have any business running anything”.

He noted that, its role should be to formulate policies, put infrastructure in place and give incentives to aid the private sector to perform.

“It is the private sector that can run the mills efficiently,” he said.

The Minister stressed that he was ready for a very strategic engagement with the NDDC on how to get agriculture working as a viable enterprise that would create jobs in the Niger Delta region.

In his presentation, the NDDC Boss, Bassey Dan–Abia, solicited the support of the Ministry of Agriculture in its drive to boost the efforts of farmers and meaningfully engage majority of the people of the Niger delta.

While speaking on the needed assistance of the ministry in bringing the two rice processing plants, which had been idle for many years, to life, he regretted that the plants, which were test-run in 2009, could not function due to lack of rice paddy and the fact that they had suffered depreciation over the years.

While speaking on the NDDC’s readiness for the re-activation of the dormant rice mills, Dan-Abia, said that the NDDC was poised to establish an Out-Growers Scheme of 1,000 rice farmers in the Niger Delta.

The scheme, according to the NDDC boss would ensure the sustainability of the rice processing plants when they become operational, apart from the contributions of the NDDC in commercial rice farming.

Dan-Abia said the NDDC had trained 14,000 youths in agricultural skills and entrepreneurship development.

The commission has given financial support to 3,700 farmers through the Bank of Agriculture (BOA), as well  partnered with the International Funds for Agriculture Development (IFAD) on the Community-Based Natural Resources Management Programme in Niger Delta.

An expert opinion have suggested that if the NDDC gets it right, they should be able to have NDDC own rice in the market by December 2014.

FEC claims over 2million jobs have been generated in Agriculture

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has stated that agriculture has generated over 2.2 million jobs in under one year of the implementation of the new programme in the sector.

Briefing State House correspondents on the development, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina declared that within one year, 13 new rice mills have been installed in the country while the distribution of seeds to farmers has taken a new and improved dimension never seen before in the country.

He listed seeds that are effectively distributed are cassava, cocoa, rice, maize, oil palm and cotton

According to the Minister, the progress is recorded following the clean-up of corruption in the procurement of fertilizer using the e-wallet system.

Dr Adesina noted that private sector investment in the agriculture sector from the World Bank is in the tune of $500 million.

Giving a further breakdown of investments from the private sector, the Minister stated that an investment of about $80 million has come in from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The USAID is said to have has invested $60 million while the Bill Gates Foundation has invested $5 million in the nation’s agriculture sector.

This revelation is coming, after a directive from the President that Ministers will henceforth give an assessment of the progress report of their performance since the inception of the administration.

FG working to revolutionize agriculture in Nigeria – Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan said Friday that his Administration was wholly committed to actualizing its plans to positively transform Nigeria’s agricultural sector into a major wealth creator and source of employment for the nation’s youth.

Speaking at an audience with a delegation from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) led by its President, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, President Jonathan said that the Federal Government was initiating and promoting reforms that will move Nigeria away from a preponderance of subsistence farming to the establishment of agriculture as a very viable modern-day business.

“We have a very large youthful population and to create enough jobs for them we must develop agriculture, solid minerals and other sectors. Nigeria has a lot of untapped potentials for agricultural development. If we can reposition agriculture as a profitable and dignified profession, more of our young people will be encouraged to go that way.

“We are very focused in this regard and I am confident that we will achieve positive results,” the President assured Mr. Nwanze and his delegation which included IFAD’s Country Representative in Nigeria, Atsuko Toda.

Noting that the implementation of its agricultural value chain development programme was a very important component of the Federal Government’s plans to revolutionize agricultural production in Nigeria, President Jonathan thanked IFAD for supporting the programme with a $74 million virtually interest-free loan.

He praised Mr Nwanze for his continuing support for agricultural development in Nigeria, saying that Nigeria was also proud of the good work the IFAD President was doing to promote self-sufficiency in food production globally.

Mr Nwanze told the President that IFAD had given loans and grants worth $225 Million for agricultural development in Nigeria since 1985.

He promised that IFAD will continue to support efforts of the Jonathan Administration to modernize agricultural production in Nigeria, saying that recent positive developments in the sector were a testimony to the President’s “commitment and dedication”.

FG secures $74 million loan to boost agriculture

The Federal Government has signed a $74 million loan with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to boost cassava and rice production in the country.

President of the organization, Dr. Kanayo Nwanze said that the programme is expected to improve the value chain of rice and cassava production in six states of the federation targeted at reducing unemployment and improving household income, at the signing ceremony in Abuja,.

Present at the  ceremony were the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and her counterpart from the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adeshina.

The Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala stated that the federal, state and local government will provide a counterpart fund of $31 million to be paid for a period of six years.

Okonjo-Iweala said the IFAD credit would be beneficial to the country as it would help create jobs and help the country to be self-sufficient in food production.

She said the agreement comprised an IFAD credit of $74m, which would attract zero interest rate and a repayment period of 40 years, as well as a grant of $0.5m.

The minister explained that the credit was on soft terms, adding that the three tiers of government would provide counterpart contribution to the tune of $31.2m.

Okonjo-Iweala said, “We are signing this credit to underscore the importance of IFAD’s commitment to the development of agriculture in this country, and it also demonstrates that our relationship with IFAD is yielding benefits to this country.

“The IFAD partnership development programme, which is what we are kicking off today, is valued at $105.2m and comprises of an IFAD credit of $74m and a grant of $0.5m.”

She added, “The credit is on soft terms and the Federal Government, states and local councils will provide counterpart contribution to the tune of $31.2m. This project will be implemented over a period of six years and there is no doubt that it will be a strong contributor to the very important plan for the agriculture sector.

“The IFAD credit is one of the most beneficial because there is no interest, only 0.75 per cent commitment charge and 40 years’ repayment period; and so, it is really a very great credit for the country to access.”

Also speaking at the event, Adesina said the funding would be used to boost rice and cassava production in six states.

The project, he noted, would cover 40,000 households in Anambra, Ebonyi, Ogun, Niger, Benue and Taraba states.

“IFAD is working very closely with us and they are supporting us in rice and cassava production. The programme will target 40,000 households in six states and it will help us to strengthen the agriculture value chain, improve market infrastructure, particularly feeder roads between the production centres and the markets, and enhance productivity of farmers,” he said.

Nwanze said the organisation had financed nine projects valued at $229m.

He said Nigeria was currently receiving 40 per cent of the total loans given to West and Central African countries.

“Funding for this project was approved in April this year. We have financed a total of nine projects valued at $229m, and currently, Nigeria receives about 40 per cent of total loans to West and Central Africa, comprising of 21 countries, and this shows how important Nigeria is to the continent,” Nwanze said.