By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA-Presidency on Sunday said that Nigeria has witnessed a great leap in rice production such that Thailand and other Asian country producing for the country were not shutting down their plants.
It also revealed that the giant strides of the government in rice farming has resulted in geometric increase in production output, stating that the import net of the country on the product fell from 1.2 million tons in 2014 to only 58 tons in 2016.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu made the disclosure while fielding questions from the Pyramid Radio in Kano.
He also stated that many abandoned fertilizer plants had come on stream to help reduce the high cost of the item.
According to Shehu, some of the plants employed as many as 100 workers to reduce the unemployment rate.
He said: “Because the elite don’t care for ordinary people they are saying that government is doing nothing but we are doing a lot for ordinary people. They don’t want us to talk about the 14 solar power projects that have been licensed to boost electricity supply in the country; the Mambila power power project which will soon leave the drawing boards and the many Chinese projects including the standard gauge railway. This country has more important things to talk about instead of dwelling on trivia.”
“The price of a bag of fertilizer is down from about N9,000-N10,000 per bag to 5,500. This country has about 32 fertilizer blending plants that have remained idle for many years but that about half that number are now in production with many of them running three shifts a day.
“While 2014, we bought 1.2 million tons of rice from Thailand, only 58,000 tons were imported last year.
“As a result of the country’s growing rice production, assisted by the decision by the government to deny foreign exchange through the Central Bank for the importation of rice parboiled rice mills in some Asian countries are shutting down because Nigeria, one of the world’s largest importers is not buying. Five of such mills in Thailand servicing Nigeria have stopped production due to the withdrawal of our patronage.
“Currently, government is watching with keen interest, the growing investment in rice milling by the private sector and will continue to give encouragement through the Ministry of Agriculture to such efforts by BUA Industries in Jigawa, Dangote in Kano, OLAM and WACOTT in Nassarawa and Kebbi and what a consortium of businessmen lead by a former Governor in Anambra State are doing. The increase in the volume of rice production and processing is already saving this country a lot of money.”
Malam Garba also indicated that the administration’s agricultural revolution was bringing about other socio-economic changes in the country.
“A recent survey in two urban areas in Jigawa state, the capital Dutse and Kiyawa showed that jobless young men are migrating from motor cycle taxi, achaba to farming. In Kiyawa, it takes a long wait to catch a motor cycle taxi because they are rapidly disappearing. The young men are moving to the farms. These are development issues in the country that our media should pay attention to,” he said in the program.
The presidential spokesman also said that the President will not be launching the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative next week as was being speculated.
Shehu said that President Muhammadu Buhari would allow the production processes take a firm root before the launching.
“The President will rather commission successes not promises. In some weeks or months ahead, you will see happen”, he said.