BY GABRIEL EWEPU
THEFederal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Dangote Group have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, of $1 billion investment on rice production.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, described the MoU as landmark and historical in the country’s rice production, as Nigeria will soon become a net exporter of rice.
Adesina who lauded the huge investment proposed by the Chairman, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, said by 2017 and 2018 Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice production and become a net exporter of the commodity.
Adesina said: “Today is a great day for Nigeria’s agriculture and a day to reaffirm the success of Mr President’s drive to transform agriculture in this country from being a net importer of food to not just being self-sufficient but to become a net exporter of food.
“The investment is landmark and historical, which will change everything and the Agricultural Transfor-mation Agenda is working for us and Mr. President. What Dangote has brought here is a climax of what we are doing here.
“What the $1 billion investment will do is very transformative. This investment will cover 150, 000 hectares accumulated across five states; Edo, Kebbi, Niger, Jigawa and Kwara. The Dangote Group and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development are mindful of the importance of smallholder farmers. It will include the communities in creating wealth in all these areas.
“This single investment by Alhaji Dangote will allow us have additional 1.4 million metric tonnes of rice produced annually and if that is translated to what is milled that means we will be producing in 2017 and 2018 from his own investment, a total of 960, 000 metric tonnes of milled rice, and that will be 46 per cent of all the total amount of rice that we are currently importing today. Certainly in 2017, 2018 Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice.”
The Minister who commended Dangote, described him as a Nigerian who believes in his own country and a proud Nigerian. He also described him as “once largest importer in Nigeria but today the largest exporter of cement.” He outlined areas in the MoU his ministry will implement by providing infrastructure in areas of investment declared Staple Crop Processing Zones, SCPZs, alongside with Ministries of Water, Works and Power, and also the new varieties of rice and facilitating funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“What the Ministry is going to do in this endeavour, first and foremost, is to work with them in all the areas they are investing and these areas will be designated as Staple Crop Processing Zones, SCPZs, which means my ministry, Ministries of Power, Water, and Works have been directed by Mr. President to upgrade infrastructure in all these areas.
“Secondly, we are going to help them with technical support. In Nigeria we have introduced new varieties of rice called Faro 44, Faro 52, and over 6 million farmers grow them. Those varieties will be the ones Dangote Group will be growing beat any rice variety in the global market today.
“We will be supporting them in research and development, and this changes the whole game in rice in Africa with this single investment is a turning point in rice production in Africa. We will support the endeavour with new rice varieties, agronomy practices, mechanisation services that will support our farmers.