The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, says the Federal Government has set aside an intervention fund to support rice farmers, millers and marketers.
Ogbeh made this known to newsmen at the end of a closed-door meeting with rice farmers, millers and distributors on Thursday in Abuja.
He said that the measure was aimed at ensuring a significant drop in the price of locally produced rice before the yuletide celebration and also enable citizens to feed well and cheaply.
Ogbeh said the decision was to enable the price of locally produced rice to fall as much as the imported ones.
“We applaud the decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria on interest rates but at the level of the ministry and Bank of Agriculture, we have set up a fund which we intend to manage to support both the farmers, millers and marketers to bring down the price of rice.
“We are concerned about the cost of rice for the Nigerian family. We want our people to feed well and feed cheaply but these things have to be managed carefully because we are dealing with public funds.
“We have been discussing the modalities to make sure that local rice sells much cheaper and that the prices can fall to the levels of foreign rice and eventually below the levels of foreign rice.’’
Ogbeh disclosed that the government would, in two weeks, organise a rice fair to create awareness for the consumption of locally produced rice in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, Port Harcourt, among others.
He said the fair would also help to showcase achievements of Nigerians in rice production.
On the destruction of rice fields by flood, the minister said the government would commission the research institutes in the country to produce flood-tolerant rice seeds.
“We also acknowledge the fact that the floods have done a very terrible damage to rice fields, the water levels are so high, many rice farms have been flooded.
“We have taken into account the suggestions by farmers that we should look for varieties of rice that are flood-tolerant.
“We will activate our contacts and research institutes to see what we can do quickly.’’
Some of the rice farmers, millers and marketers who spoke at the event, appealed to the government to implement the support as soon as possible to enable them to begin production immediately after the rains.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that representatives of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) and marketers attended the event. (NAN)