The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar has revealed that the sector topped the chart in a survey by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), of seven sectors identified to have contributed to Nigeria’s economy in the second quarter of 2022. Abubakar said agriculture out-performed six other sectors, including trade, telecommunications, manufacturing, oil and gas, real estate, as well as finance and insurance.
The minister revealed this at the opening ceremony of the 45th regular meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD) themed “Strengthening Agricultural Value Chain Development Process for Food Security and Economic Development” held in Jos, Plateau State, recently.
Abubakar said that agriculture alone contributed 23.3 per cent to the nation’s GDP (half-year 2022) which supports the positive trend of the previous years’ performances of 25.88 per cent (2021), 26.21 per cent (2020), 25.16 per cent (2019), 25.13per cent (2018), 25.08 per cent (2017), 24.45 per cent (2016) and 23.11 per cent (2015).
He emphasised that the data reflected the impact of the implementation of programmes and projects in the sector, despite the security challenges in the country.
The minister posited that agriculture is a key sector in the country, as it not only feeds millions but contributes to the overall development of the economy.
“It has been consistently prioritised by successive administrations towards ensuring food security and attaining national development plans.”
Abubakar maintained that the ministry would sustain its programmes on farm inputs subsidy, registration, clustering and validation of farmers, mainstreaming women and youths in agribusiness and developing cooperatives along various agricultural commodity value chains.
He stated that the Federal Government has approved an intervention fund for the completion of 10 large-scale rice mills in the 10 states of the Federation.
The mills are located in Jigawa, Kano, Adamawa, Niger, Kaduna, Gombe, Ekiti, Ogun, Bayelsa and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The minister added that other efforts revolved around the development of agribusiness incubation centres – capacities to train 4,000 beneficiaries per session – in the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; Umaru Musa Yar’Adua University, Katsina; University of Ibadan, University of Maiduguri, Niger Delta University and the University of Abuja.
He disclosed that the ministry facilitated the production and distribution of 920MT of assorted improved seeds (breeder, foundation and high breed seeds) of cashew, sesame, sorghum, maize, rice, as well as the distribution of 67,000 litres of agro-chemicals to 1,397,469 farmers and 14,785 agricultural equipment, material, tools, groundnut processing machines, rice mills, cashew processing machines, oil palm processing mills with components, tractors and combined harvester tricycles for farmers, colour sorters and 2000 knapsack sprayers to farmers across the country.
Abubakar highlighted that the ministry also trained 153,124 women and youths to understand the value chain for various crops, fishery and livestock and empowered 142,703; trained 214,787 farmers in good agricultural practices (GAP) and 220,018 farmers in Farmer Business School (FBS), trained 3,985 extension agents across the country in agricultural value chains and extension methods, established 9 agricultural extension services delivery centres in Anambra, Oyo, Cross River, Kano, Bauchi, Niger, Benue, Edo and Katsina states and procured and distributed 370 motorcycles to front-line extension agents to enhance their mobility.
Speaking further, he added that, recently, the ministry set up a fact-finding mission led by the executive director, National Root Crop Research Institute (NRCRI) Umudike, to investigate the scourge of the potato blight disease that has ravaged farms in Plateau, to find a lasting solution to the problem.
Abubakar stressed the need to maintain collaboration as a requirement for sharing initiatives, identifying interventions, pooling resources and implanting programmes in the sector.
“Our task at this meeting is to review and consolidate the previous resolutions of the council, to provide further guidance on the future directions for the sector and make the desired impact on the economy,” the minister added.
He, therefore, solicited for active participation and support of all stakeholders in the facilitation of rural infrastructure, research and innovation, credit and insurance, extension services and agribusiness investment in the country, emphasising that it would enable food and nutrition security and economic development in Nigeria.
In his remarks, the governor of Plateau State and chairman of the Northern Governors Forum (NGF), Hon. Simon Lalong declared the council open and commended the minister and his team for ensuring that the meeting held in the state.
He said that there was no better time than the present for stakeholders to convene a meeting to brainstorm on best strategies and policies to tackle hunger which is threatening the general well-being of Nigerians.
Lalong pointed out that potato farming has escalated from a subsistent activity to a large-scale activity aimed at supplying the domestic market and exporting.
“We have completed a tissue culture laboratory in Mangu and built processing centres and warehouses in various local governments. Similarly, we have built market stalls in various centres to make marketing of the products very easy and cost-effective.”
The governor seized the opportunity to draw the attention of the minister to the increase in the devastation of potato farms by the disease which almost wiped out the existing, low-yielding and degenerated seeds.
He, therefore, requested that the Federal Government come to their aid by paying some compensation for the huge losses running into billions. Also, he requested the upgrade of the National Root Crops Research Institute, Kuru out-station in the state to a full-fledged research institute, amongst other issues.
Earlier, the Minister of State, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri commended Lalong and his cabinet for the provision of a conducive venue for the meeting and making the necessary security arrangements for the event.
“The gesture by the Plateau State government in hosting this meeting against all odds is a demonstration of the continued cooperation between the Federal and state governments.”
A statement signed by the ministry’s assistant chief information officer, Eremah Anthonia pointed out that the intensification of efforts in the commodity value chain development process as reflected in the theme was borne of the desire to grow agriculture, diversify the economy, ensure food security and empower the citizenry through public-private-partnership.
In his goodwill message, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Senator Bima Mohammed Enegi, commended the minister for his initiatives toward diversifying the nation’s economy through NATIP which would drive the value chain.
The highlight of the event was the inspection tour of the agriculture exhibition stand, the research institute, National Veterinary Research Institute and the Federal College of Land Resources Technology, Kuru, Jos, Plateau.