Written by Ere-ebi AGEDAH

Self-sufficiency: Don’t expect support from food exporting countries, minister warns

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has warned Nigerians not to expect support from any food exporting country for Nigeria's ongoing policy to ensure self-sufficiency in food production.

The minister issued the warning at a Special Town Hall Meeting on Agriculture in Dutse, Jigawa State.

He cited a recent report which said that Nigeria imported 400,000 Metric Tonnes (of rice) more this year, even though the country has reduced rice importation by 90%, as the handiwork of detractors who are bent on dampening the resolve of the government to exit food importation.

"Please permit me to alert Nigerians to the reality out there: In pursuing our agricultural revolution, which will ultimately lead to self-sufficiency in the national staples, we should not expect accolades and support from outside, especially from countries that have hitherto been the main exporters of food items such as rice to Nigeria.

"Every nation pursues its national interest, and it is definitely not in their interest for Nigeria to produce what it consumes, because it means you will no longer import from such countries.

“It is in that context that Nigerians should see the recent fake news that Nigeria imported 400,000 metric tonnes more than the quantity of rice imported in 2017. The report, quoting the 2018 United States Department of Agriculture World Markets and Trade Report, also posited that Nigeria’s local rice production is dropping. When the figures were challenged, they could not provide any empirical ground for the report,” Mohammed said.

He said contrary to the report, the Central Bank of Nigeria revealed that it had not allocated any foreign exchange for the importation of rice this year because rice importation has reduced to the barest minimum.

“So those who claimed that Nigeria imported 400,000 MT of rice more this year have not been truthful,” the minister said.

Also speaking, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the reduction of interest rate on lending to farmers to 9% has ignited a revolution in agriculture in the country.

Ogbeh said with the reform of the Bank of Agriculture, which will be completed by the end of this year, the government is targeting 5% lending rate to farmers.

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