Nigerians have been urged not to panic over reports of looming famine in the country due to the huge demand for grains by neighbouring countries.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who gave the admonition in Abuja, declared that instead of famine, Nigeria is on the path of self-sufficiency in food production.
Ogbeh said that the news of Nigerian grains being in huge demand “is a good thing” that is drawing new farmers into agriculture, especially as the yields are on the increase due to improved seedlings.
He however warned Nigerians to be wary of imported food products, stressing that the Federal Government is on the verge of banning the import foods that are posing health risk to the citizens. Under the expected ban which is being finalised by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), items to be affected include rice, plastic cabbages, honey and tomato paste.
The minister told some select journalists at the weekend in Abuja that “we are on the path of self-sufficiency in food production. There is no policy summersault to ensure that foreign investors and Nigerians have stability in terms of policy issues. We are initiating major youth engagement in agriculture in order to find a replacement for ageing farmers. Yields from millet, rice, sorghum and beans are improving.”
“Yes, we have pressures from our neighbours as their demands mean putting additional 80 million people into our food chain. But we can’t ban the export of grains because we are part of the ECOWAS treaty. But the good thing about the great demand for grains from our neighbours is that our farmers are now making money. “We are now becoming rich; our farmers now say. Things are beginning to happen. The rural areas are beginning to see wealth. In the next two years, we are moving into mechanised lands. The big news is that we have a project called 10-37 through which we will never rely on rains for the farming season. It now has to be irrigation.
“There is no need to panic about any reports of famine. If there is market for food, it is a good thing. Our food gets to Libya, Mali and Mauritania. For the sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria is the food basket. There will be no famine as we have 33 silos with capacity for 100 tonnes. And it is good news that the market price encourages people to enter the farming business. And the farmers’ yields are improving.”
“We have a huge programme for improvement in cattle as the milk yield is too low. We are about to relaunch cocoa where we were number one and now we are number seven; I feel so embarrassed at this. Ivory Coast took from here and they are now number one. Indonesia took palm oil from here and they are now number one in palm oil production. We want to be number one in cashew production. To help matters, a Nigeria makes the cashew processing machines. We intend to have 500 hectares of cashew farm in senatorial districts in the states that grow cashew.”