From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The federal government has disclosed that about 3.6 million indirect jobs have been created from $1.113 billion (about N461.9 billion) worth of externally funded projects being implemented by the present administration.
The Minister of Agriculture, Mohammed Abubakar, made this disclosure while appearing at the Ministerial Media Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday.
According to him, $538 million was approved for special agricultural processing zones to support inclusive and sustainable agricultural development in Nigeria.
He pointed out that another project worth $575 million is being implemented to improve rural access and agricultural marketing in participating states while strengthening the financing institutional base for effective development, maintenance and management of rural roads network.
Abubakar listed the participating states as Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina, Kogi, Kwara, Kebbi, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Plateau and Sokoto.
The Minister noted that the government is also implementing the Value Chain Development Programme
Additional Financing (VCDP-AF) 2020- 2024 to enhance, on a sustainable basis, incomes and food security of poor rural households engaged in the production, processing and marketing of rice and cassava.
He revealed that the project is currently being implemented in nine states including Niger, Benue, Ogun, Ebonyi, Taraba and Anambra, Nasarawa, Kogi and Enugu “to scale up the achievement recorded in the original VCDP states.”
The minister also assured that the government was working hard to address the issue of rising prices of foodstuff in the country.
Abubakar explained that the current rise in the prices of food is not peculiar to Nigeria, due to the emergence of COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Russia and Ukraine.
He said: “When COVID came, it affected a lot of things including food production and the after effect of that is what we are still facing and that will lag for some time before it is stabilized. I believe the price of rice has dropped a little bit and we are still working on it.
“The whole world is currently reeling out of COVID and now battling the consequences of the war in Ukraine and Russia but things will stabilize and the Ministry of Agriculture is doing everything to possible in terms of addressing the problem; we are not relenting, so that the prices will come down faster.”
The agriculture minister noted with dismay, attacks by herdsmen and terrorists that have denied some farmers the opportunity to go to their farms, especially in the North-West and Central regions of the country.
“It is a concern for the government but however if you notice, despite that, still, production has not dropped to any significant level. That is one of the reasons why we have an arrangement for security agents known as Agro-Rangers, who are providing some measures of security so that the farmers will be able to access their farms.
“Truly, if they cannot completely access farms all over the country, you will expect a drop in production but right now we are doing everything possible to make sure both productions are maintained through that security provision,” he assured.
He further said Nigeria remains focused on its plan of ending hunger by the year 2025.
“Of course, we are on track. Who will not want to end hunger?” he said.
On the rate of importation of fish into the country despite the government’s emphasis on local production, the Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Samson Umoh, said that is based on the unavailability of some species of fish in Nigeria and the total fish demand for the country.
“Presently the total fish demand for the country is about 3.6 million metric tons, based on the population of Nigeria while the total production is about 1.2 million metric tons.
“And the gap must be filled up therefore, we are engaging the youths, women and all sectors to improve fish production. Apart from the intervention being done by the government, there are some species that are not farmed or found in Nigerian waters; like the mackerel and the stockfish among others therefore, we have to import because they are not available in Nigeria,” he explained.
He also said the agricultural sector has contributed a lot to Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), in the last seven years because of President Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence on agriculture as a means of diversifying the economy, in the wake of the fall in the global price of oil.