as National Food Security Council faults USDA report on import
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru,
Abuja – In a bid to boost agriculture in the country, the federal government has approved N60 billion subsidy to support rice industry in the country.
Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents after a meeting of the National Food Security Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, in Abuja, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Ogbe who was flanked by the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu explained that the purpose of the subsidy was to help bring down price of the commodity in the country.
According to him, “There is a subsidy programme coming up. Government has approved some money N60 billion to support the rice industry to bring down prices. But we are going to handle it differently.
“We don’t want to get into petroleum subsidy problem. So, a committee is looking at it with the Ministry of Finance.
“We think that it is better for us to loan money to the millers, farmers and distributors at a very low interest rate, so that the capital doesn’t disappear, so they have cheaper credit to do their business that should impact on the price of rice in the market.
“When we are ready we will let you know.”
The minister spoke of plan to ban fertilizer NPK 151515 which has been in use in the country for many years, saying that the ban became imperative because it adds no value to crops.
He said, “We call for the ban of fertilizer NPK 151515 which has been used in the country for many years but recent research revealed it’s not useful for any crop or any soil.
“Soils differ and so do crop, to believe there is one uniform fertilizer you can spread for every crop is a fallacy. And it’s because we have done soil test and change the formulations of fertilizers, local blenders that some of the yields we are getting now are rising from two tonnes per hectares to five and six. So the president is looking into that and to how we can deal with it.”
In his remarks, Governor Bagudu said the council’s attention was drawn to the report by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which suggested that Nigeria remains a heavy importer of rice despite government’s claim to the contrary.
He said: “We drew the attention of the council to a report by the US department for agriculture which suggested that Nigeria has been importing rice or about to the tune of about three million tonnes.
“We informed the council that contact has been made with the US agency to tell us the basis for the report because it’s not consistent with the report available to us.
“The only official importation in Nigeria is about 4,000 metric tonnes of rice. Secondly, the biggest exporter of rice, Thailand exported 1.1 million metric tonnes of rice to West Africa between January to October this year and India exported 402 million metric tonnes of rice to West Africa between January to end of July this year. That is a total of 1.5 million metric tonnes.
“Even if all was smuggled into Nigeria, that was the total amount of importation one could attribute to Nigeria.
“So, the US authorities responding by saying that their assessment was based on satellite imaging of flooded areas and consideration that we are about to enter electioneering period and that demand for rice by politicians or for political purposes will increase.
“Thirdly, that most West African countries depend on Nigeria. So, because of the flooding, they concluded based on those assumptions that Nigeria will import more.
“Certainly, that is an erroneous report. Even in spite of the flooding, the upland rice production has been quite strong this year. Even though prices have increase in response to flooding, we still have adequate paddy rice in Nigeria.”