IN a swift preparatory measure for the upcoming 2018 wet season, the Federal Government has expressed optimism on the production of 8 million tonnes of rice farmers in the country.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, made this known in Abuja.
While commenting on the accomplishment of Buhari’s administration in the last three years, Ogbeh, noted that the nation was currently producing between 5.8 million and 6 million tonnes of paddy.
He added that the goal was to hit 9 million tonnes by 2019. The minister, stated that the rice facet of the agricultural sector has had the highest upgrade and recorded the greatest achievement.
According to him, the combined effort of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) made the huge difference in the sector.
He noted that the combined effort has cut-down rice importation by 95% in the last 3 years, stating that the development has also enabled the government save 5 million dollars daily.
In his words: “The number of farmers growing paddy rice has risen from 5 million to 12.2 million; more farmers are coming in as we clear more land for them and arrange irrigation facilities.
“By the end of this planting season which we are entering, we should be approaching 8 million tonnes of paddy, which will give us roughly 6.5 million tonnes of processed rice.
“We hope that by this time next year, we should be targeting 9 million tonnes of paddy, because the good thing is that, rice grows everywhere in the country.
“Irrigation has to come on board for us to achieve this because as long as we depend on rain-fed agriculture, we would have difficulties in achieving the target.”
Ogbeh stated the country currently has 27 operating large rice mills and over 5,000 small rice mills scattered in various parts of the country.
Deviating from rice production, the minister noted that the country is currently the largest yam producer, the second in sorghum production, third in millet production and fourth in cashew nut production in Africa.
He disclosed that Nigeria earned 700 million dollars from cashew nut sales in the first quarter of 2018 – with an increased number of exports from Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, by 180 per cent in the last two years.
“We are also leaders in cassava production but we are not doing well enough in cassava processing and value addition,’’ Ogbeh explained.