It was gathered that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has assured that the current foreign exchange pressure on the country would come to an end before the end of 2017 when the Federal Government investments in agriculture and other productive ventures begin to yield fruits.
Ogbeh, who spoke at assessment tour of Coscharis Rice Farm in Anaku, in the Ayemelum Local Government of Anambra state, said Nigeria spends over $3billion on food import annually, stressing that this was unacceptable for a country with huge potential to produce food.
He said”When we go round the country, we began to have great confidence in our rich endowments and I think Nigeria’s independence is just begining to be established because unless a country can feed itself and feed well, every other dream can’t be fulfilled.”
The minister said he was amazed to see how much investments the Coscharis Group has made on rice farming in just two years, stressing that by replicating such ventures across 26 states with potential to produce rice Nigeria would save so much in foreign currency.
“I have seen similar things in Kebbi and I am seeing this big one, I am very proud of Coscharis and the effort the governor of Anambra state is making to support him. In another year, we will have no need to import one grain of rice into this country. In fact we may stop rice importation sooner than that. It is final word I am telling you, because Nigerians have proven that they can do it and I am proud that I can see this thing in Anambra. Because people who don’t know Anambra do not even know what potential sexist for agriculture I am also proud of the role the CBN is playing because they are giving a lot of credit support, even allocating the scarce foreign exchange that we have to a critical sector like agriculture.”
He told the younger generation of Nigerians that there is future in agriculture, urging them not to run away from it even though it is tough, the nation has to feed itself.
He said Nigeria would be exporting 500 million in 34 years time, you have to feed yourselves, feed your children, and when you can, nobody anywhere in the world can tell you anything, you can tell them off
Ogbeh said that rice sector alone will take off two million people before we began to satisfy our needs of eight million tonnes. This is heavily mechanised, the smaller farmers don’t have all these machineries but they contribute immensely. So jobs, jobs and jobs, the millers are there, the marketers, the transporters, the distributors, all of them will be part of this business, just for rice. We have not even talked about cassava, of maize, of soghurm, of millets, beans, yams so the future is huge, the jobs are there.
Also speaking, governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, said the bank was spurred to support agriculture because the country ran into a situation where it’s reserves had been badly depleted, largely due to massive importation of rice when indeed it can grow rice,.
He said “ we import tomatoes, when we can grow tomatoes, we are importing milk, when we can grow diary. We have people and companies in Nigeria that can take up the initiative, but we have been importing milk for over 60 years. There is a company that has been producing milk for 60 years, and I say it is time those kind of companies begin to produce our diary in Nigeria.
Emefiele said the apex bank would continue to encourage investors like the Coscharis Group because of their commitment in the business.
We started this with him, almost about two years ago when we granted him a N2 billion Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS). With his own resources, he added to it and that is why he is where he is today. Those are the type of things we need to continue to encourage. And about a month ago, he came to the CBN that we need to come and see what he has done with the CACS fund we gave to him. I must say that I am delighted that he has used the money well. And when he came, he requested for more money because he wants to have the capacity to produce rice all-year round, that is three harvests in a year. To do so, he needs irrigation and he needs his mill. And I am happy to say yesterday, the Committee of Governors of CBN gave approval for him to set up a mill here and also set up his irrigation. That is the kind of support we would give people who have shown interest, because there is no foreign exchange to import food, when we can produce food in the country. After that, the next stage is to begin to encourage him, together with the state governor for supporting the initiative, to be able to create jobs for the youths.
For his part, governor Willy Obiano of Anambra state said
“We are hoping to catch up with Kebbi. We are currently doing 210,000 metric tonnes. We call on CBN to support Coscharis Farms and other small holder farms because they are structured here. Through the agro-intervention funds we got N1.5 million and disbursed it and now we want N5 billion. There is much money in farming- you feed yourself and sell others”