By Peter Duru, Makurdi
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, has stated that Nigeria would stop the importation of rice by 2018.
Chief Ogbe said his Ministry was working hard to ensure the realisation of the target which would help the government conserve scarce foreign exchange.
He spoke yesterday when he hosted a delegation from International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, Value Chain Development Programme, VCDP, led by the National Programme Coordinator, NPC, Mr. Ameh Onoja, and the Benue state Coordinator of programme, Emmanuel Igbaukum, in Otukpo.
The Minister, who commended the steady success being recorded by the IFAD-VCDP programme, said his ministry had put measures in place to improve the yearly production of rice across the country through the provision of improved seedlings and inputs that would boost the yield of farmers.
He said Nigeria was currently producing five million tons of rice per annum which according to him did not meet the seven and half million tons required in the country annually.
Chief Ogbe said, “we are working very had to bridge that shortfall, through deliberate policies, that will ensure the increase in yield per hectare, and we will achieve that by bringing in more rice farmers, improved inputs and modern implements, improved quality of rice seedling and also increase the number of modern rice where we have severe challenges.”
Mr. Onoja on his part said his team was in Benue State where it took representatives of the Minister on tour of selected rice farms in parts of the state which belong to cluster groups of rice farmers who were working in collaboration with the IFAD-VCDP to boost food production in the country.