The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, has said that Nigeria spends about $22bn a year on importation of food.
Lokpobiri made this known on Saturday at a town hall meeting in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
He said the development had led to the astronomical rise in price of rice and other commodities, stressing that if Nigerians failed to produce some of the items being imported, before December the price of rice would skyrocket to N40,000 a bag.
He said there was a projection that by 2050, Nigeria’s population would be 450 million, wondering what would happen then if the people could not feed themselves now.
Lokpobiri said, “For your information, we spend about $22bn a year importing food into Nigeria. We know how many more dollars … and that is why you see the price of rice going up.
“Price of rice was N12,000 some months ago, but it is now about N26,000 and if we don’t start producing, by December it could be N40,000.
“Rice matures in three months. So, this is a wake up call for Bayelsa people to take the four farms we have seriously. The federal government has four farms in the state in our records. The average land you see in Bayelsa can grow rice, so the colonial masters were not wrong in their assessment when they said Niger Delta could feed not only Nigeria but the entire West Africa sub-region.
“Unfortunately, agriculture till today, is not a priority of the Niger Delta as far as the state governments are concerned because of oil.”
He said the states in the Niger Delta had yet to give priority to agriculture the way the North-West states such as Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano as well as other states like Lagos, Ebonyi, Anambra, have prioritised it.
He said Anambra State for instance, was not owing salaries despite the fact that it does not have oil but raking in money by exporting vegetables.