Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, is optimistic that the nation will achieve self sufficiency in food production by 2017.
Ogbeh, who was represented by a Permanent Secretary, Dr. Shehu Ahmed, last week at a roundtable meeting of Rice Supply Chain of the Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme (ASDP) jointly organised by the Ministry, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), said the Federal Government has banned the importation of rice and there is currently surplus across the country.
According to him, this means, it shows that the farmers and all government’s policies are aiding agriculture produce, saying that there have been improvement in the production of food especially as strategic implementation of government programmes has helped in reducing post harvest losses in the country.
He added: “By 2017, Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice production. We are getting close as there is improvement on what we have been getting before. This will boost our economy. The Federal Government had approved the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES) for input supply to farmers and the Ministry was working with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to reposition the Staple Crop Processing Zone.”
He hinted that rice value chain was topmost in the agenda in attracting both local and world class companies to invest in the sector, adding that the implementation of the Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme would lead to an increase availability of domestic agro-inputs supply, enhance production and reduce post harvest losses.
The minister reiterated the readiness of the Ministry to support and encourage the private sector to take the lead, giving assurance that government will provide the enabling environment through policy constituency, appropriate legislation and oversight to ensure effective diversification, import substitution and food security in the nation.
The Representative of the Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme, Dr. Robert Asogwa, said that there was renewed interest and priorization of rice production and processing by governments at the national and state levels.
He stated that rice and cassava are two crops with enormous comparative advantage across the country, which can generate economic multiplier benefits. Saying that improving productivity in agriculture required new strategies and creative solutions.
He said food self sufficiency, predictable foreign exchange earnings and stimulated industrial and manufacturing production would be achieved if the key supply constraints in the agricultural sector is addressed.
He maintained that the African Agribusiness Supplier Development Programme would improve the productivity of small holder farmers and link them to off-takers.
Meanwhile, the Niger State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Aliyu Abdullahi, said the state government was working towards developing the entire rice value chain to boost the quality of rice cultivated locally.
He said the state was endowed with abundant land, water and human resources that could be harnessed for increased productivity of rice to satisfy local demand and for exportation.
FG reduces $4.7bn wheat import bill by 30%
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture has reduced the $4.7 billion annual cost of importing wheat by about 30 per cent with the establishment of the wheat value chain in the country.
The Executive Director Lake Chad Research Institute, Dr. Oluwasina Gbenga Olabanji. who spoke recently at the flag off of a 3-day Workshop for 6,000 youths on wheat production in Kaduna, said Nigeria is the least African country in wheat sufficiency, producing only 2.2 per cent of national demand which stands at four million metric tonnes per annum.
According to him, the most critical challenge for Nigeria today was how to encourage domestic production.
He added: “It is a known fact that wheat is a temperate crop, but the fallacy that wheat cannot be farmed in Nigeria has been debunked. After thorough research, dry season experiments for wheat farming yielded 100 per cent success rate, while raining season experiment yielded only 25 per cent success rate.”
Also, speaking at the event, Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai of Kaduna State gave a similar figure that the country spent $10 million daily on wheat, while 90 per cent of wheat consumed in Nigeria was imported.
However, he encouraged the youths to embrace agriculture, adding that his administration would provide the trainees’ seedlings, pesticides, fertilizers and land, as the state has the capacity to excel in agriculture.
He explained that Kaduna had engaged 25,000 unemployed on tree planting as well as thousands were also engaged in the state free feeding programme as one of the steps to reduce unemployment, which he described as dehumanizing.
He added: “We must go back to agriculture for us to feed ourselves and also feed the nation. Our youths must embrace agriculture. Any obstacles they will face we will remove it for them to achieve greatness in agriculture.
“We have the capacity to feed the nation. We have the land and capacity to excel in agriculture. We will provide you with land. We want more women into this agriculture training on wheat farming and production. If you excel, others will join you. We asked for the Lake Chad Institute Executive’s commitment to enabling Kaduna State get seeds for 50,000 hectares in 2017,” he added.
Why local tomato processors are running bankrupt
Story by Steve Agbota
Nigeria may experience another scarcity of fresh tomato in the next planting season, as farmers are diverting interest to other crops following indigenous paste companies’ threat to shutdown their operations across the country.
The companies recently announced plans to stop tomato paste production owing to the harsh operating environment that gives advantage to imported products in the country.
Nigeria has an annual demand of 2.3 million metric tonnes of tomatoes, while actual production stands at 1.8 million metric tonnes, 60 per cent of which is wasted due to lack of storage and agro-processing facilities, especially in states in the northern part of the country including Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and Plateau regarded as the highest producers of fresh tomatoes, leaving a short fall of 1.22 million metric tonnes.
This was further reduced when Erisco Foods Limited and Dangote Industries Limited started tomato paste factories in the country to mop up the produce to reduce wastage and enable farmers to earn income from their labour. Daily Sun learnt that the two companies generated over 5,000 jobs during the short period they started operations and were still planning to employ more.
Farmers, who spoke to Daily Sun, said it would be a disaster if the indigenous tomato companies shut down production. They said the presence of the local tomato paste industries has given them a lifeline by saving their tomatoes from wasting away and empowering them financially.
They noted that, “before now, if you go to Jigawa or Kano, you would see a lot of tomatoes being wasted even at the farm gates. Since Dangote and Erisco came, they supported by buying our tomatoes that normally would have rot away.”
According to a farmer, Abdul Malik, “if these people shut down operations, it means farmers have to look for something else to do or shift to other crops that can help us to feed our families because one thing about farmers is that once they are not making gain from one product, they abandon it and go to another one. If this happens, there may be scarcity of fresh tomatoes in the next farming season.
“We appeal to government to look into the situation. We want government to look at the number of workers that will lose their jobs and farmers that will be affected. Boko Haram and herdsmen have chased a lot of farmers away from their farms. Government should help us that are still remaining to stay in the farm.”
Few weeks ago, Erisco Foods Limited which said it invested over $150 million in its factory in Nigeria threatened to shut down operations and layoff 1,500 workers and likely relocate to other African countries while Dangote Industries Limited which also said it invested over $20 million facility in Kano State also plans to close down operations for lack of support from some government agencies.
Presently, Erisco which has over 2,052 workers is producing below 20 per cent capacity utilisation of its plant since inception and spent N4 billion in buying excess tomato both fresh and dry from farmers that ought to have wasted last season.
However, the company has also given the Federal Government a 30-day ultimatum to support indigenous manufacturers or else it would relocate its business outside Nigeria, which lapses between November 4th and 5th.
The Chief Executive Officer, Erisco Foods Limited, Mr. Eric Odinaka Umeofia, accused the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Ministry of Trade and Investment and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of frustrating his company’s effort to produce and supply Nigerians quality tomato paste.
Umeofia said: “Erisco Foods Limited has demonstrated enough patriotism and loyalty towards our dear country and we have risked enough of our investments and life. We will be forced against our patriotic wish to relocate our operations to a country where there is conducive and favourable environment for manufacturing if within 30 days from now nothing significant is done by the government to address these issues raised by us and give us our right to help Nigerians as we can never beg for our right to help our people and economy.”
He added: “It is difficult accessing the various CBN intervention loans for manufacturers and farmers. For instance, the ongoing expansion of our Katsina project has been stalled principally due to lack of government’s support for indigenous manufacturers and lack of market for made-in-Nigeria goods as well as access to funds. This project would have created 50,000 direct jobs within two years and more than 500,000 indirect jobs during the same period.”
Meanwhile, Group Vice President of Dangote Industries Limited, Alhaji Sani Dangote, disclosed that the group recently stopped tomato paste production because of the harsh operating environment that gives advantage to imported products. He also said the company would not be able to pay farmers from whom they get the raw materials unless government did something urgently.
Although the CBN said it would not give dollars to the processors, Dangote noted that countries like China give their people huge support and waivers that allow them access to finance that they do not really feel the forex crunch being faced by their Nigerian competitors.
He insisted that the only way out was for government to put in place a clear cut policy on tomato importation and local production, stressing: “We have been talking for the past one year and up till now there is no clear cut direction where the government is heading.”
He further said that the forex policy being implemented by the CBN has not stopped importers from making profit from importation, instead, it is the local industries that are recording losses. He added that forex was not the problem but establishing a policy that would restrict the importation of tomato.
Speaking with Daily Sun, Chief Executive Officer of AgroNigeria, Mr. Richard-Mark Mbaram, said if Dangote shuts down operations and Erisco heads to other African countries, it spells doom and calamity to Nigeria’s tomato and the agriculture sector at large.
He said: “Without a doubt, we are going to be losing jobs because these are factories that directly employ skilled labour and unskilled hands that engaged in those operations. If we have a situation where these activities are shut down, we are going to lose so much in terms of productivity in the tomato value chain. Primary production is going to suffer and availability of the product for long time on the shelf is going to suffer.”
According to him, government needs to fix a lot of things as the situation is sending signal that Nigeria is not the environment to do business as prospective investors coming in to invest will first look at the businesses on ground and how they are doing. He added that CBN must do more than what it is currently doing to help local industries.