By NKIRUKA NNOROM
The Minister of Agriculture and Urban Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has urged the EU member states to pay more attention to investing in agribusiness in Nigeria, rather than focusing on granting Aids to the country to develop the sector.
Adesina made the remark at the 2nd EU-Nigeria Business Forum, tagged, “Forging Partnership in Africa’s Economic Powerhouse”, in Lagos.
He also called on the EU countries to look at the possibility of forging more partnerships with local farmers, saying that doing that would develop the value chain, as well as grow the economy.
He noted that Nigeria was well positioned to benefit from EU partnership due to its proximity to Europe compared to other African countries.
Adesina asserted that the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme, one of the critical components of the Federal Government’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) has saved the nation N25 billion ($156million) in 2012, adding that before the introduction of the scheme, Nigeria loses as much as N25 billion yearly.
He noted that 1.5 million farmers were reached with the programme in 2012, while 7.5 million were impacted within the first one year.
In 2013, an additional 3.5 million farmers are proposed to be reached, he added. Lamenting neglect of agriculture sector by successive governments, the minister said, “With slowing oil sector growth, there is an urgent need to diversify Nigeria economy away from oil. We used to be number one palm oil producing country; Nigeria was also a big global commodity market in the 60s.
“It is not as if we don’t have the opportunity, we do. We also have the resources. We have 4 million hectares of uncultivated land and we have not achieved up to 10 percent utilisation.”
He noted that due to challenges in embarking on agribusiness in Nigeria, the federal government has decided to set up Staple Crop Processing Zones, a kind of cluster that would give farmers the privilege of enjoying infrastructural development from the government.
He said that the federal government plans to set up 12 of such zones before the end of the year, while two are already operational.
“We are unleashing a rice revolution to become self-sufficient in 2015. Nigeria should not be importing rice, we should be exporting. I believe that we are well on track in becoming self-sufficient in rice production,” he added.