With efforts currently being made in Nigeria to stop importation of rice by meeting the nationwide demand of seven million tonnes of the food product through local production annually by the year 2018, the country will soon be saving $7million daily in its foreign reserve.
This was disclosed yesterday by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh at the 2016 LEADERSHIP Conference and Awards with the theme, ‘The Rice Economy’ held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
The minister who was the keynote speaker at the event which was attended by prominent Nigerians said the country’s policy as enunciated in the Agricultural Promotion Policy, the Green Alternative, will continue to drive the growth of rice in the value chain.
“By the time Nigeria achieves self sufficiency in its rice production, it will mean the saving of nearly $7 million a day from our foreign reserves, it will mean a happier society, it will mean that we have started obeying the law of nature. The stomach must first be stabilised before the eyes, the ear, the arms and the feet can function well”, Ogbeh stated.
Relying on the latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) which pegged the contribution of agriculture to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 24.7%, with an annual growth rate of 4.4 in a country facing recession, he acknowledged that the country was still some distance from its destination.
Noting that rice consumption in Nigeria is 7 million tons per annum, the minister expressed hope that the country will meet that target by the end of next year.
“What is happening is not an accident but the result of target attention to detail, hardwork and good leadership by governors and greater leadership by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, he observed.
Recalling how Nigerian went into rice importation, Ogbeh said he was a cabinet minister in 1982 when suggestion was brought by a colleague of theirs that the solution to rice demands was the establishment of a task force for importation.
He continued: “The question I asked then was why not a task force for rice production? I was told I was too young to understand; that the solution was import first, then production later. This unusual and demeaning logic obviously reflected our ignorance about the dynamics of international trade.
“The moment the importers discovered the swiftness of the Nigerian market, they ensured that local production was not only disrupted but made sure it never took place. This is how rice kept coming and for a period of nearly 30 years, the import bill of rice stood at $6million a day. And we kept paying because there was money from oil and gas until the music stopped. “The consequences of our lack of discretion on our rice consumption has been a terrible drain on our economy. Nigerians are the second highest importers of rice in the world.
“The resultant inability of this society to develop its own strategy of ensuring self-sufficiency in our local staples, including rice has cost us a lot of money. We are now lamenting but the time is not here for lamentation because I think we have started solving the problem”.
Ogbeh also recalled that, while in 1986 the programme of structural adjustment was dumped on the country and the rest of Africa, it did not occur to local economists and the government at that time and probably ever since that a policy of massive importation results in massive exportation of wealth and jobs.
He said, “Those who dumped that policy on us have since regretted their actions. Recall that a former managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a book he wrote regretted the structural Adjustment Programme on Africa.
“Jeffrey Saks who was adviser to Kofi Annan on Economics condemned the programme as the worst assault on Africa since the slave trade as well as Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize winner in Economics from the United States who also condemned it. We the victims are now lamenting”.
The minister further pointed out that every ship load of rice of 50,000 metric tons denies the country of 15,000 jobs, especially in rural areas and among the small holders, adding that “what we have been doing is exporting wealth, importing poverty, depleting our foreign reserves and hoping that a miracle will happen someday”.
Chief Ogbeh, however, raised hope when he recalled that the current administration of President Buhari had in November 2015 launched a programme in Kebbi State called the Anchor Borrowers Programme for rice production.
He said the programme was designed and supported by the Central Bank of Nigeria( (CBN), which was criticised by many and accused of having no business with supporting production, with some Nigerians claiming that the Anchor Borrowers Programme was not part of the CBN responsibilities but the business of the commercial banks
He said it was a thing of pride that the Governor of Kebbi State was being rewarded by LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group with the Person of the Year Award, describing it as “an award he (Bagudu) deserves”.
Outlining the role played by the CBN in the country’s rice revolution, Ogbeh said, “But as we all know the commercial banks in this country with the exception of 1 or two have never shown much sympathy for agriculture as they say it is too risky. Farmers do not report and have no capacity to pursue small farmers around the farms and recover their money. So, agriculture has suffered tremendously because credit has been unavailable to small holders.
“The CBN gave loans, farmers went to work. The governor of Kebbi in particular drove them, as he had 78,000 farmers growing rice and we went there to visit. President Buhari did the launch and I was there with him and Skeptics said to us it is a waste.
“Today in Kebbi, there are well over 400,000 men and women who make well over a million naira a year farming.The same is happening in Kano, Jigawa, Ebonyi, Anambra and Niger States respectively. We can almost say that recession has varnished from the rural communities in those places. Most people in those places live more relaxed lives than those in the cities They are making money, they have regained their prides, they no longer depend on handouts and if the trend continues we would have transferred wealth to the villages”.
The minister added that even foreign journalists who had gone round and reported the success of the Nigerian rice programme in the midst of recession were surprised that this was happening in Nigeria of all places.
Ogbeh further assured that the success story will continue because the country will soon 100 rice millers and properties in the next one week and that some of the Mills have a capacity of 10 tonnes, while others gave 100 tonnes.
He said, “The philosophy is simple: take life to the village and if we can stabilise the villages, we can stabilise this country and guarantee peace. We can create wealth for young people through agro processing in the entire rice value chain The number of young men and women crossing the desert, heading for voluntary slavery in Libya across will not find reason to go abroad.
“We intend to put more resources in seeds and our new fertiliser blend is already in the market ahead of the raining season. We are offering fertiliser, especially the NPK, to farmers at 50% of the price they paid last year N5500 per bag for 50kg.
“This was brought about by a negotiation between President Muhammadu Buhari and the King of Morroco. By the time we end our journey and begin to supply 7 million tonnes, not less than 25 million Nigerians would be involved in the rice value chain. That number, mostly resident in the rural areas, would be the biggest guarantee of security, peace and stability to our local areas.They will be the only insurance against the reinsurance of things like Boko Haram and other insurgencies that may threaten us if we have no jobs to offer the youths.
Nigeria On Course To Join League Of Rice Super Powers – Nda- Isaiah
On his part, the Chairman of LEADERSHIP Newspapers Group Ltd, Mr Sam Nda-Isaiah said Nigeria is capable of joining the league of rice super powers like Thailand, China, Indonesia, Japan and Brazil in no distant future.
He based his assertion on the strides recorded by Kebbi State government in rice production, which he said could see the country becoming self- sufficient in rice production next year.
Nda-Isaiah stated this while delivering his welcome address at the 2016 LEADERSHIP Conference and Awards ceremony held at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
Noting that some years back Nigeria used to spend $6 million daily importing rice, the Kakaki Nupe alluded to the fact that for Nigeria to be on the verge of becoming a super power in rice production next year at a time it was going through recession showed how serious the achievement of Kebbi State in the area of rice was.
He said, “Last year, we celebrated the coming of age of our democracy. This year we are celebrating pure and exemplary good governance. And for good reasons, we are also celebrating the rice economy. It is no accident that Nigeria will become self-sufficient in rice production by the end of next year. This means that in a few years, we should start exporting rice, and in years down the line we could join the league of rice super powers like Thailand, China, Indonesia, Japan and Brazil.
Yet, this is a commodity that Nigeria used to spend $6 million daily importing. If one considered that this feat is happening at a time of recession, then they would know how serious an achievement this is. This exploit didn’t just happen; some people planned hard and worked hard to make it so”.
Nda-Isaiah expressed optimism that Nigeria could come out of recession by simply planning and getting responsible if it can borrow a leaf out of the success story of rice production in the country and replicating same in all aspects of the its national life.
He said, “The recent history of rice in Nigeria shows Nigeria can change its trajectory if we really put our mind to it. What we have done with rice, we can do with every other aspect of our national life.
“We can come out of our current recession – preordained by lack of planning and irresponsibility – by simply planning and getting responsible. If we had been serious about diversifying our economy a decade ago, the collapse of oil price in the international market would not send us scampering for cover.
“And if we start today to do in other sectors of the economy such as mining, IT and e-commerce and agriculture what we have done with rice, Nigeria would become a global force in no time. It is possible. We can do it” he added.
He advised the leadership of the country to leverage on the strengths of Nigeria which is the people, diversity and resources.
The All Progressives Congress (APC) said, “Our greatest assets are our people, our diversity and our resources. We just need a very courageous leadership to take full advantage of these. Nations compete by leveraging their key strengths. And Nigeria has lots and lots of areas of strength.
“Today we are celebrating some of our best. They have shown distinction in their different areas –governors, administrators, bankers, businessmen and youths who have shown that they are not limited by a disquieting recession.
“And, as usual, in making these choices we were not influenced in any way. Our nominations always go through very rigorous processes and painstaking debates. In some cases, we fall into a dilemma and we end up choosing more than one person for a category, as we can see this year. But this is a good dilemma because it simply means many people are doing very well”.
He congratulated all the awardees and expressed hope that they will start breaking even their own records after clinching the LEADERSHIP Awards which, according to him, “have become the most credible and most influential of its type by any newspaper house in the country.
LEADERSHIP Awards Will Spur US To Do More – Udom
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, the