By Etuka Sunday
President Goodluck Jonathan has disclosed the plan of government to further reduce the food importation bill to the barest minimum. Jonathan stated this at the commissioning ceremony of the OLAM Integrated Rice Mill in Nassarawa state.
He said, “Our commitment is to continue to reduce our food importation bill to the barest minimum. To demonstrate our commitment, I am glad to report to Nigerians that from a total food import bill of One trillion, one hundred billion naira (N1.1tr) ($6.9billion dollars) as at 2009, we have reduced our food import bill to Six hundred and eighty four billion, seven million naira (N684.7billion) ($4.35billion dollars) as at December 2013,” he said.
According to him, “Nigeria must be self-sufficient in food production. Nigeria’s position today as the largest economy in Africa, in terms of GDP, is important, but not enough on its own We must continue working towards becoming the largest producer, and exporter of food. It is my firm belief, that with our vast land, water and labour resources, has no business being a net food importing country. We shall continue to work very hard to meet our goal of unlocking all our agricultural potential.
“When I launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011, our goal was to add an extra 20 million metric tons of food to our food supply by 2015. Our progress in this direction has been remarkable. The innovative electronic wallet system has empowered 10 million farmers with access to subsidized high quality seeds and fertilizers. We were the first country in Africa to launch this system that has now assured greater transparency and better productivity in the sector.
He said, “over the past three years, our farmers have produced over 17 million metric tons of food. Steadily on this path, we expect to surpass our 2015 target of 20 million metric tons of food, by the end of this year.
Now with better policy articulation and enhanced technology, our farmers, small and large, are all being touched by the new drive for food production across the country.
“Our goal of making Nigeria a net exporter of rice will be achieved faster by encouraging large commercial farms that will complement our small-scale farmers. Large mechanized rice farms like OLAM’s 6,000-hectare farm will not only boost food production, but also provide significant opportunities for jobs in rural areas. Our youths will be supported to go into mechanized farming, and to pursue agriculture as a business,” he concluded.