From Magnus Eze, Abuja
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh yesterday reeled out worrisome statistics, which showed that the country spends over $22 billion (N7trillion) annually on importation of various food items like wheat, rice, fish, and poultry products among others.
But the Federal Government said the continued importation of products that could be produced locally was a big threat to local production.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who unveiled the agricultural roadmap christened: “The green alternative: Agriculture promotion policy-2016-2020”, said the government was committed to developing the sector as the driver of economic diversification process of the administration, stressing that the policies of previous administrations were being reviewed and incorporated.
The vice president stated that government would engage 100,000 of the 500,000 employments being provided by the administration to extension workers that will help in agricultural information dissemination, adding that the implementation of the school feeding programme will be home-grown based on local agricultural products.
In the area of agriculture financing, Osinbajo disclosed that the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) will by the end of this month commence single digit lending to farmers.
“If we get it well in agriculture, we will get it well in the economy,” Osinbajo said.
The Minister of Agriculture also stated that milk and tomato paste importation gulps over one billion dollars (N300 billion) and $400m (N1.2 billion) respectively annually.
Ogbeh explained that the roadmap was built on the policies of the former administration because according to him, throwing everything overboard would cost the country far more.
“We are also mindful of the fact that government is a continuum, hence the need to build on the foundation we inherited from the previous administrations in the country. This we have done by building on the successes and lessons of them all, including the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the previous administration.
“Regarding the latter, it entails closing the observable gaps of ATA, consolidating on the agenda and developing new initiatives to address emerging and future concern,” he added.