President Goodluck Jonathan announced on Monday that his administration has been able to reduce food importation bill to the barest minimum, from N1.1 trillion ($6.9 billion) in 2009 to N684.7 billion ($4.35 billion) in 2013.
The reduction, which is N415.3 billion or 37.75 per cent in four years, was part of efforts at making Nigeria self-sufficient in food production.
Jonathan, who disclosed this at the commissioning of Olam Nigeria’s 105,000 metric tonnes Integrated Rice Processing Mill in Nasarawa State, noted that Nigeria’s rice production programme has continued to receive much focussed attention.
He pointed out that Nigeria’s national paddy rice production has grown by additional 7 million metric tonnes within three years.
In his words, “Our commitment is to continue to reduce our food importation bill to the barest minimum”.
“To demonstrate our commitment, I am glad to report to Nigerians that from a total food import bill of N1.1 trillion ($6.9 billion) as at 2009, we have reduced our food import bill to N684.7 billion ($4.35 billion) as at December 2013.”
The President noted that though Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa, in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), he regretted that is not enough on its own.
“We must continue working towards becoming the largest producer, and exporter of food. It is my firm belief, that with our vast land, water and labour resources, Nigeria has no business being a net food importing country.
“We shall continue to work very hard to meet our goal of unlocking all our agricultural potential,” he assured.
Over the past three years, Jonathan said, Nigerian farmers have produced over 17 million metric tonnes of food, adding that “we expect to surpass our 2015 target of 20 million metric tons of food, by the end of this year”.
The President noted that Nigeria cannot justify the huge amount of rice it imports each year “when we have the potential to produce rice locally”.
“If we like to eat rice, then we must have to produce more. That is why we have placed total self-sufficiency in rice production as a priority for our country.”
He added that the goal of making Nigeria a net exporter of rice will be achieved faster by encouraging large commercial farms that will complement small-scale farmers.
He also noted that large mechanised rice farms like Olam’s 6,000-hectare farm will not only boost food production, but also provide significant opportunities for jobs in rural areas, as youths will be supported to go into mechanised farming, and to pursue agriculture as a business.
“I am very pleased to see that Olam’s rice farm is inclusive of the rural communities, especially women and youths.
“As we encourage large commercial farms, we will ensure that their development empowers subject communities and protects their land rights, while boosting their shared participation in wealth creation, within their communities,” Jonathan added.
He said Nigeria must not just stop at farming, “but progressively add value to all our agricultural produce, building agricultural value chains, from the farm to the table”.
He said the current and planned investment of over $100 million by Olam is a very good example of how to build integrated rice value chains, combining commercial rice farms, out-grower schemes of small farmers, and modern rice mills, as more of such rice business investments will be promoted with the various incentives under the new rice policy.
Jonathan said he expects that Nigeria will become a net exporter of high quality finished rice within the next five years.
“I look forward to the day when Nigerian rice will go beyond our shores, and be traded and enjoyed internationally.
“With the pace and rapid results being achieved under the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, I believe this goal is well within our reach,” he stressed.
The President, therefore, directed the Ministries of Agriculture, Works, Power and Water Resources to work jointly to facilitate infrastructure support systems around the Nasarawa zone “and, indeed all other staple crop processing zones, as part of our National Infrastructure Master Plan”.