The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri at the weekend painted a gloomy picture of the rising price of rice in the country, saying the price of a bag of the commodity may be N40,000 soon, if Nigerians fail to engage in rice farming.
Senator Lokpobiri who disclosed that available data showed that Nigeria spends about $22billion annually on importation of food into the country, also said that the development will become worse with astronomical rise in prices of food items if Nigerians fail to engage in local production of most of the food items being imported into the country.
Speaking at a town hall meeting with stakeholders in Bayelsa State in Yenagoa on Saturday, he said there was a projection that by 2050, Nigeria’s population would be 450 million, wondering what would happen then if the nation could not feed its population now.
He said: “For your information, we spend about $22bn a year importing food into Nigeria. We know how many more dollars they bought and that is why you see the price of rice going up.
“Price of rice may be N12,000 some months ago, but it is now about N26,000 and if we don’t start producing it, by December, it could be N40,000.
“Rice matures in three months. So, this is a wake up call for Bayelsa people to take the four farms we have seriously. The federal government has four farms in the state according to our records. The average land you see in Bayelsa can grow rice, so the colonial masters were not wrong in their assessment when they said Niger Delta could feed not only Nigeria but also the entire West Africa sub-region. Unfortunately, agriculture till today is not a priority of the Niger Delta as far as the state governments are concerned because of oil.”
He said the states in the Niger Delta were yet to give priority to agriculture the way the North-West states such as Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano as well as other states like Lagos, Ebonyi, Anambra, prioritised it.
According to him, Anambra State for instance, was not owing salaries despite the fact that it does not have oil but raking in money by merely exporting vegetables.
The minister, who decried the destruction of the region’s resources by militants, said agriculture was one sure way of discouraging militancy.
He said: “The only way we can take our people out of militancy is actually through agriculture and this is also an opportunity to tell our people that the most important resources to any man is land and water resources.By the time you are blowing up pipelines, you are actually damaging the water resources. Today, people say it will take 20 years to clean up Ogoni and we are blowing up our pipelines. We are the people suffering from our own decision, from our own wrong action. So, the time has come for change from blowing up pipelines as a way of drawing attention to constructive engagement. “