By Naomi Uzor, with Agency reports
As the Government turns attention to agriculture to ease the pressure on the economy and create jobs, President of Dangote Group at the weekend flagged off his multi-billion Naira 8000 hectares of Rice Outgrowers Scheme in Hadejia, Jigawa state as part of his partnership with governments at all levels to reduce food imports.
The launch of the Scheme marked with the distribution of rice seedlings to the benefitting farmers is with potential to provide direct jobs for 5000 farmers and another 5000 indirect jobs for various scheme dependants.
The rice project being executed by Dangote Rice Limited and expected to be replicated in six other states of the federation is a fallout of memorandum of understanding signed between Dangote and the Federal government on one hand and the Jigawa state government on another.
Speaking shortly before he made the distribution, Alhaji Dangote explained that Nigeria depended on agriculture for economic development before the discovery of oil noting that oil was meant to complement the agric but sadly the nation abandoned agric and concentrated on oil.
“Before the discovery of oil, our economic was built around potentials from our palm oil, groundnut, cotton, and rubber plantations. Now the price of oil has plummeted from a peak of $116 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $29 per barrel in January 2016, this means there is huge loss of revenue to the government”, he lamented.
Justifying his decision to delve into agriculture, Dangote said Nigerian agricultural commodities and food imports bills has averaged over one trillion Naira in the past two years 2013 and 2014, with foods like sugar, wheat, rice, fish accounting for 93 per cent of the total,cost of imports, a situation he described as unacceptable for any one who loves the country.
Dangote disclosed that the Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme has been designed as a one-stop solution for the rice value chain.
Excited at the Dangote initiative, the Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heneiken Lokpobiri commended Dangote for his intervention in the government efforts at providing food security for the citizenry, creating jobs and reducing dependency on food importation.
The Minister noted that the government is putting in place a strategy that will make farmers have greater access to farm implements to help them produce with ease.