Nigeria expends N1.3trn on food importation –Ogbe

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By Steve Agbota

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has decried the whopping N1.3 trillion expended annually on importation of assorted food items.
Speaking recently during the flag-off of the dry season wheat and rice production in Kano State for 2015 in Kura, Ogbe lamented that the huge amount of money spent on importation of food into the country was against the nation’s domestic production.
However, he said that more efforts would be made to boost local production by increasing the capacity of the farmers across the country. Addressing farmers at the occasion, the Minister assured that for health and safety reasons, jute bags would soon replace polythene bags for grain storage as the former is safer. He promised that the universities of agriculture in Nigeria would be re-oriented to do what they are set up by law to do.
Also speaking at the event, the Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, pledged to help the farmers improve productivity and objected to the idea of continuing to use agriculture to manage poverty.
He added: “In Kano State, agriculture is now to be treated as a business. Kano State is trying to transform agriculture into viable economic activities. We urgently need an approach to improve agricultural production, with sound agricultural policies to back it up.”
He said the state’s wheat farming programme has registered 18,200 farmers as part of the priority attention from his government.
Meanwhile, Executive Director of Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI), Dr. Gbenga Olabanji, said having the national mandate for genetic development of wheat, Nigeria has the potential for wheat production and is able to produce wheat yielding eight tonnes per hectare.
He said Nigeria has 600,000 hectares of land that is good for wheat production, adding that the production capacity has increased from one to two tonnes per hectare to five to six tonnes per hectare through improved varieties.
He said: “There is market for wheat in Nigeria now. By 2017, a reduction of wheat importation by 50 per cent is possible.
I am appealing to other wheat-producing states to urgently flag off their own dry season programmes so that Nigerians can produce what they eat and eat what they produce.”
A chieftain of Wheat Farmers’ Association, Abubakar Saleh Mohammed, observed that wheat farming has started seeing transformation, bringing policy makers, financial institutions, researchers, millers, farmers and other stakeholders together.

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