The importance of Agriculture cannot be over-emphasised in Africa and particularly in Nigeria.
Nigeria is blessed with a wide variety of agricultural potentials, ranging from varieties of crops to varieties of animals and plants and natural agricultural-supportive factors like forests, waters, sands and most of all human resources that are being under-used or not even used as at now.
It is to this effect that the president of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote stated that the current efforts of the federal government at diversifying the economy to an agriculture centered one remains the viable solution to creating a healthy economy.
The agriculture sector is at the heart of the diversification rhetoric that has dictated economic policy for the last five years, and this has borne some fruit; after all, this sector has started to show growth. One reason for this is government policy, the infamous list of 41 barred items has supported the agriculture sector, most notably, the local oil palm industry.
More generally, the federal government has set an agenda for developing this sector, first through the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) and now, through the Economic Recovery & Growth Plan (ERGP).
Stakeholders in the agriculture sector commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for its agricultural policy, saying that agriculture is gradually regaining its position as the mainstay of the nation’s economy.
Dangote recently said it was because of his belief in the government approach at re-energizing the economy and make it export oriented made him to step up his investment in agriculture especially in the area of food sufficiency.
According to him, Nigeria has wasted so much foreign exchange importing foods that ordinarily should be produced locally and even exported and that until a new approach at redirecting the economy from import dependent to an export one, which the present government is leading, no meaningful changes can happen.
According to him, we have invested massively in rice, sugar, dairy products, and tomatoes. Our rice-out grower scheme will produce rice by next year that reduce our rice import to nearly zero because Nigeria imports more than half of the rice it consumes. We have expanded our sugar operations with our operations in Tonga in Nasarawa in addition to Numan sugar projects where sugarcane is cultivated planted for raw sugar production that will be refined.
“Some months ago, we laid the foundation for the construction of ultra-modern rice processing integrated plant that will process 16 metric tons of paddy rice in one hour, by the time you multiply this by the number of hours and days it operates, you will understand that this is huge. The interesting thing about investment in agric is that apart from food production sufficiency, the job potential is unquantifiable.”
Dangote noted that “his company was investing massively in agribusiness, promoting industrialisation through the backward integration process to ensure Nigeria becomes self-reliant in food production in good time and save it of the much needed foreign exchange hitherto being spent on importation.”
“We are producing the raw materials needed in our factories. In the Sugar sector, we developed a sugar backward integration project plan targeted at the production of 1.5 million tonnes per annual (MT/PA) from various sites across Nigeria, in the next 10 years.
“We have an out-grower scheme, enough paddy rice will be grown and harvested for processing. Some 20,000 outgrowers expected to produce an average of 180,000 tons of paddy rice. We are presently building rice processing mills in Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger States in the first phase”, the businessman stated.
Dangote explained further that in the second phase, other mills will be built in Nasarawa, Kogi, and other states, noting that with the six mills, the company will achieve a capacity of seven hundred thousand metric tons per annum of Par boiled rice
Without sounding immodest, the president of Dangote Group said his Dangote Rice company will become largest rice producer in Africa, a bold step in making Nigeria self-sufficient in rice production.
It would be recalled that the foremost indigenous manufacturing Group had stepped up its investments in agriculture and food production following the federal government’s policy of economic diversification that has placed emphasis on agric rather than oil and general importation.
Dangote praised the federal government’s economic recovery and growth plan, saying his investments in refinery, petrochemical and fertiliser production are in that direction.
According to him, that the decision of the Government at diversifying the economy away from oil only to an agriculture centred one remains the viable solution to myriads of economic conundrum that Nigeria is presently facing
He said the private sector has important roles to play which was why he has taken up the challenge to lead the way as a leading private sector operator and that with government providing the right environment through good policy formulation and implementation, it will be a matter of time before Nigeria would become one of the world’s economic power.
Stakeholders said Nigeria, a nation believed to be one of the nations that have potentials to be great in the world because of her endowment with natural and human resources cannot unleash her potentialities if the country does not gain self-reliance and self-sufficiency.
According to them, our country will perpetually remain a borrower and debtor nation in the face of the booming globalisation exercise. Until Nigeria summons courage to invest and exploit its rich agricultural sector, our country cannot achieve economic and political independence.
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