The Federal Government has admitted that there is food shortage in the country with most families facing crisis. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who disclosed this yesterday at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, said the major concern among Nigerians now was for the country to achieve food sufficiency.
Ogbeh explained that the Federal Government was taking deliberate steps to address the worrisome situation, including diversification of the economy.“The situation which we occupy many decades ago, we are working hard on the staples to satisfy local production and we are fully aware that there is a major concern in the country for food self-sufficiency in the country and that there is crisis in many families as a result of serious shortage of food,” the minister stressed.
The Agriculture Minister who was joined at the briefing by the Minister of Women Affairs, Hajia Aisha Alhasan and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, announced that Council, in considering the situation, approved an agriculture roadmap known as “The Green Alternative” that would assist in achieving speedy diversification of the economy with more focus on agriculture.
He explained that the roadmap for agricultural operations is for the next three years. Ogbeh said: “But we are working hard and thank God that ours has not become as bad as one South American country, which was also a major oil producing country.
By that, I mean Venezuela, which situation is definitely a 100 times worse than ours. “But the point is that where we are going, we believe that in a short while, another year and half in the maximum, we should be reasonably self-sufficient in grains like rice, maize, beans. We may not achieve everything in wheat, but we will be very close to our targets. Other things are also there in the roadmap. And that is what council endorsed this afternoon.”
He said the roadmap, which was presented to council, outlines government’s policy objectives in trying to see agriculture as the next biggest alternative to drive and diversify the nation’s economy. According to him, the document, titled “The Green Alternative” outlines virtually everything we need to do, every policy we need to undertake to achieve selfsufficiency in agriculture and also to become major exporter of agriculture produce.”
Ogbeh, who lamented the current figures of food importation which has come as a result of negligence of the agriculture sector, said: “Food has many species and varieties, we import about 40, 50 per cent of the rice we eat. At a time, it was almost 100 per cent, costing $5 million a day, that was the situation for the last 20 years.
“We still import almost 70 per cent of the wheat for the bread, we import about five million eggs per day from South Africa and some other countries. But we don’t import yams, garri, we don’t import beans. We use to import beans from Burkina Faso, that has stopped.
“We don’t import chicken, although smugglers are quite busy on the day. We import fish worth $600 million per annum; the numbers are reducing because our local fish production is increasing. “We still import some tomato paste, we are going to halt that in the next three months because local production capacity is almost satisfactory now.
This is because some of the pastes coming in are of doubtful quality, the importers are going to be very insistence that we can’t do it on our own, but we will stand our ground. “We import honey to the tune of about $100 million per annum, we still import cookies and biscuits and even toothpick, but all these did not happen in one day.
The idea is to reduce these imports. We import a lot of milk and some local production by Friesland and some of the policies we put in place will reduce and also eliminate. But we can’t achieve self-sufficiency absolutely in the next one year, but we are approaching there,” the minister said.
On clashes between farmers and herdsmen, Ogbeh said that the Federal Government will soon provide special security to guard farmers and their investments on the farm across the country as a step to boost production.
The minister said government will soon train officers from a special unit of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to handle this assignment. The decision is coming few days after President Muhammadu Buhari, in Zamfara State, directed the military to take a sweep at the activities of cattle rustlers in parts of the country.
He said the Ministry of Interior was presently making arrangement for the training of the special department to protect farmers and their investments on the farm. In her remarks, the Women Affairs Minister explained that council also approved the memo presented by the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, for the re-designation of two roads in Kaduna State from being federal roads to state roads based on the request by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. FEC has advised other state governments that can afford to take over federal roads close to their cities to do so, in order to lessen the burden on Federal Government and facilitate quick repairs and maintenance.