By Jimoh Babatunde, with agency reports
The 40th meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development held in Abeokuta, Ogun state last week was another opportunity for Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the Minister of Agriculture, to reel out the efforts of the present administration at making the country sufficient in food production.
Coming on the heels of the award given to Nigeria for achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1 on hunger, three years ahead of schedule, Akinwumi Adesina said the country could not afford to be a net importer of food anymore.
“Nigeria can no longer continue to be a sleeping giant. We have to wake up and turn Nigeria into a global powerhouse in agriculture,” he said. Adesina said the government is implementing a time-bound aggressive plan to unlock Nigeria’s potential to become an agricultural powerhouse.
“Yearly, Nigeria imports over 11 billion U.S. dollars worth of wheat, rice, sugar and fish. However, Nigeria is importing what it can produce in abundance; this import dependency is hurting Nigerian farmers, displacing local production and creating unemployment.
He explained that the vision of government is to make Nigeria an agricultural and industrialised economy, using a government-enabled private sector-driven approach,” he said. Speaking on the efforts of the government to use agriculture as a tool for economic development, Adesina disclosed that the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) introduced by the administration has been able to end age long corruption in fertilizer distribution in the country through the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES).
Nigerian Farmers’ net income has increased by 174 Billion Naira due to the ATA’s activities in five value chains, Cassava, Rice (Dry Season and Rainy Season), Sorghum, Maize and Cotton. He said billion of Naira has been saved for the government through the policy, adding that the ATA is focused more on value addition with the priority areas as cotton, onion, tomato, sorghum, maize, soybean, oil palm, cocoa, rice, cassava, livestock and fisheries.
Adesina disclosed the Federal Government had generated N591 billion from the cultivation of value-chains in rice, cassava, sorghum, maize and cotton within two years.
On Cassava, Adesina disclosed that the country is the largest producer of cassava in the world and that the focus must be to make the country the number one processor as well as number one exporter .
Export opportunities exist for dried Cassava chips ,as the World’s Leading Cassava producer, Nigeria is Well positioned to benefit from the export market .
He said China’s demand is sourced mainly from Southeast Asia: Thailand (54%), Vietnam (38%) and Indonesia (4%) , while Nigeria supplies less than 5% of volumes.
“Nigeria has potential to become major global player within two years as dried chips preferred to South East Asia’s due to higher quality level.
Adesina added that the Government has Secured 3.2 million MT Of contract orders for Nigerian dried cassava chips from Chinese importers, adding that based on existing contracts, Nigeria can earn between $802 Million and $1.37 Billion from dried chips exports to China and Europe
“We must lift cassava from subsistence level to a major commercial and industrial crop capable of attracting big time investors and create about 1.2 million jobs to the Cassava Sub-Sector in Nigeria by 2015.”
He listed some of the achievements in the cassava sector to include, 21,059 farmers benefiting from distribution of 315,898 bundles of improved planting materials; standardization of recipe for cassava bread by three trainer organizations, namely: Park and Shop, FIIRO, and IITA, and Sweet Sensation and training of 385 master bakers in six geo-political zones in the production of Cassava bread.
On horticulture, the Minister of Agriculture disclosed that Nigeria is not a major horticultural produce exporting country, yet it is noted as one of the leading producers of tropical fruits and vegetables in the world. He regretted that less than 5% is processed in the country while 40 -51% account for wastage of the total output as about 55% is consumed fresh by Nigerians.
“The overall objectives are to boost production and increase productivity – tomato from 8- 50 tonnes/ha with national output from 1.86mt – 3.35mt annually, and bridge the deficit gap of 500,000 tons fresh fruits for domestic consumption.