President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his administration’s commitment to sustaining interventions in the nation’s agricultural sector to increase productivity, ensure food sufficiency and grow the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He stated this at the National Agricultural Show, in continuation of activities to mark this year’s World Food Day, themed “Our actions are our future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”, held at the National Agricultural Showground, Tudun Wada, KM 28, Nasarawa, yesterday.
Buhari, who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, stated that the series of deliberate interventions by his administration have increased productivity in the sector.
“As a result of the Federal Government’s policy initiatives and innovative funding in the sector, significant progress has been made to improve agricultural productivity since the inception of the present administration.
“To diversify the economy, the Federal Government has continued its renewed focus on the agricultural sector, developed an array of policies, strategies and programmes, with the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP), the Green Alternative, with the Anchor Borrowers programme initiative and ban on the importation of some agro-commodities being the most notable,” he said.
He explained that the initiative intended to create economic linkage between smallholder farmers and reputable, large-scale processors to increase agricultural output and significantly reduce poverty, create jobs, assist rural farmers and grow from subsistence to commercial production levels.
“To boost food security, Nigeria has curbed imports and established a robust rice production programme to boost local rice production. Efforts in this direction are yielding positive results. Nigeria is now Africa’s largest producer of rice, producing 9 million metric tonnes.
“The country is the world’s largest producer of cassava and yam, with 59.4 and 47.9 million tonnes, respectively; ranked 14th in maize production with 10.42 million tonnes, 4th in oil palm with 7.7 million tonnes and a range of policies and initiatives to strengthen the production of rice, livestock and fisheries. The same has been done for other value chains, to harness the potentials targeted for development.
“Following other arrays of policies and strategies such as National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Plan (NATIP) 2021-2024, Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) and National Gender Action Plan (NGAP), virile foundations to unlock the country’s agricultural potentials and set the sector on a growth path to sufficiently meet the domestic food requirements and export quality levels are in place.
“The programmes have created jobs for millions of youths and women, reduced poverty, huge import bills and saved the country’s foreign exchange. We envisage the deployment of innovative technologies in the agriculture sector for improved product quality, reduction of waste and linkages for local and international investment.
“This year alone, the ministry has raised its national food reserve stock to 109,657 MT, a figure expected to further increase to 219,900 MT by the end of 2022,” he said.
Buhari pointed out that disruptions occasioned by the pandemic and flood disasters in the country came at a significant cost to the nation’s agricultural production and the ministry coordinated the release of over 70,000 MT of grains to vulnerable Nigerians to cushion the effects of the pandemic.
He also stated that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development through the Agriculture for Food and Job Plan (AFJP) – a component of the Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) – targets 5 to 10 million jobs in the agricultural sector and provide zero-interest loans to farmers to lift Nigerians out of poverty, adding that the first phase of the scheme has produced over 1.1 million beneficiaries across all states and the FCT.
“The Federal Government through the Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support (APPEALS) project has set aside N600 billion as loan support to farmers across the country. No fewer than 2.4 million farmers are expected to benefit from the zero-interest loans. The gesture will support farmers in the country to improve their productivity and boost the country’s food security, improving farmers’ production and increasing export,” he added.
In his address, the executive governor of Nasarawa State, Engr. Abdullahi Sule said the importance of the National Agricultural Show could not be emphasised enough; not only due to its contribution in promoting self-sufficiency in food production but also in promoting the cardinal principles of President Buhari’s policy of diversification, particularly in the agricultural sector.
Sule urged other state governments and relevant stakeholders to embrace the National Livestock Transmission Programme (NLTP) aimed at achieving peace among farmers and herdsmen, increase productivity and boost the economy.
In his welcome address, the chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and chairman, Board of Trustees, National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria (NAFN), Sen. Abdullahi Adamu, lauded the agricultural policy of the president towards empowering smallholder farmers, improving research institutes for better yield and bring about food security.
The country representative of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Nigeria, Mr. Fred Kafeero, represented by Mr. Guy Kouame, said: “FAO has been on the forefront in global efforts to help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, make agriculture more productive and sustainable, reduce rural poverty, ensure inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems; and protect livelihoods from disasters”.
In an earlier event to mark this year’s World Food Day, the minister said: “the Ministry has trained 100 internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the camp in New Kuchingoro, Abuja, on new farming techniques and empowered them with farm inputs.” He cited it as an example of the fight against hunger, poverty and malnutrition – some of the objectives of the World Food Day commemoration.
Addressing the people at the camp, the minister said: “We are here to empower you, share some food items and farm inputs that would enable you to produce your food within your locations in the camp. This goes with the saying that ‘it’s better to teach a person to fish than to give a person a fish,” the minister noted.
Responding, the leader of the IDPs, Luka Yatuma, commended the Federal Government for the gesture.