Rice importation into the country is to end next year, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, has assured.
He spoke at a joint Anchor Borrowers rice farm inspection with the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and the Governor of Niger State, Alh Abubakar Bello, at Sunti, Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State, at the weekend.
According to him “The federal government’s massive rice production programme, has made huge impacts on the nation’s rice supply and will therefore end rice importation into the country as from next year”
He added that the government was working on providing farmers with more improved seedlings , as well as, extending the programme to more states in order to achieve set objectives of food security in the country.
In his own remarks, Mr. Emefiele said that he was satisfied with the level of mileage reached by the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which he said was a key strategy towards drastically reducing the level of foreign exchange that the country was wasted on the importation of food.
“We were convinced at the CBN that the nation was wasting foreign exchange in the importation of food items that we can conveniently produce at home. That was why we chose specific crops such as rice, wheat, soya beans and cotton as the immediate target of the programme.
“The results are there for all to see that indeed, the decision to grow the food that we eat in the country makes a great economic sense. By growing our food at home, rather than import them, we create jobs for our people, create wealth and conserve foreign exchange for other uses”, he said.
The governor disclosed that about N2 billion had been disbursed to farmers and other players in the value chains of the selected crops and that Nigerians now have better nourishing food to eat rather than eating, especially rice that had remained in warehouses for many years, which were being imported into the country , in the name of foreign rice.
The CBN boss promised the released of more funds for the purchase of harvesters and rice mills for members of the benefitting cooperatives and other Nigerian businessmen who would be interested in the agricultural sector.
According to him, the Anchor Borrowers Programme was initiated by the CBN with atarget of ensuring economic development by providing credit to individuals and industries in the agricultural sector at single digit rates.
Mr. Emefiele, also urged State Governments to key into the programme with a view to diversifying the economy away from oil, as well as, creating more jobs.
Also speaking, the Governor Bello pledged to assist the Sunti Rice Farmers Cooperative, as well as, by providing more tractors to ease increase their production.
The Governor said that the state government had embarked road works to make it easier for farmers to move their produce to markets in and outside the state.
He observed, however, that highways across the state were being destroyed by over –loaded trucks. He therefore called on the federal government to put in place measures to address the problem.