Marte (Borno) – Nigeria is working on plans to stop the importation of wheat by 2016, Minister of Water Resources , Mrs Sarah Ochekpe, has said.
The country currently spends about N635 billion annually on wheat importations.
Ochekpe spoke at a wheat farm in New Marte during her visit to the 67,000 hecters South Chad Irrigation Project (SCIP) in Marte Local Government Area of Borno.
“I am excited to be here at the SCIP, which is situated near the Lake Chad, a place I have been longing to see since I was a school girl.
“But beyond this, we have seen that Nigeria has all it takes to produce wheat for consumption. I believe in the next four years we will work towards self sufficiency in local wheat production to end importation,” she said.
Ochekpe, who was accompanied by Dr Yarima Lawan, the Minister of State for Finance, added that the country would also stop the importation of rice and other commodities.
“We are told that rice is also produced in large quantities here, this is another area of interest to government, we will give all the necessary support to ensure that the project reaches optimal level,” she said.
Ochekpe said that the SCIP was a well articulated agricultural project that deserved great attention.
“It is time for us to take Nigeria to where it is supposed to be, some how we have been busy chasing oil wealth, but turning to agriculture will make us realise our full potential.
“We will by the grace of God do everything possible to assist the Chad Basin Development Authority (CBDA) in its bid to make sure that the project reaches 100 percent level,” the minister pledged.
Ochekpe commended the CBDA for keeping the project alive in spite of its numerous challenges.
“I want to say that we will not rest until the SCIP reaches its full potentials, because this is the only way Nigeria can recover its past glories in agriculture.
“We have been talking to some development partners to attract necessary funding for the projec,” she added.
Managing Director of CBDA, Dr Garba Iliya had earlier told the minister that the SCIP was the largest irrigation scheme in West Africa.
He enumerated the history of wheat production in the area which he, however, said had been hampered by various factors over the years.
“In 1979, 525 hecters of rice were cultivated which yielded a total of 2,392.9 tons at an average of 4.5tons per hecter,” Iliya said, adding that in the same year about 729.60 hecters were cultivated during the dry season which yielded 1,452.50 tons of wheat.
“The area under cultivation continued to increase annually up to 1983/84 dry season when a peak of 7,000 hecters were cultivated, yielding 14.349.10 metric tons of wheat.
“Thereafter a combination of climatic change, inconsistent government policies, receding water levels at the Lake Chad and other factors led to declining production at the project,” he said.
NAN reports that the minister also visited the 30 mega watt CBDA power house in New Marte, as well as the Alo Dam, among others.(NAN)