News Column

'Food Import Bill Drops By U.S.$2.6 Billion in Three Years'

July 14, 2014

Ruth Tene Natsa

Nigeria has recorded a decline in its food import bill from a total of N1.4 trillion (about $7 billion) in 2009 to N717 billion (about $4.35 billion) as at December 2013, representing a decline of $265 billion (N429bn).

President Goodluck Jonathan, who made this known yesterday, also said that paddy rice production has grown by an additional 7 million metric tonnes from 1999 till now, even as the nation's food import bill has been reduced by almost half.

"Our paddy rice production has grown by an additional 7m metric tonnes within three years. This is remarkable but we have to work even harder still," he said at the commissioning of the OLAM Rice Mill in Lafia yesterday where he designated the mill a staple crop processing zone (SCPZ).

Jonathan, while speaking on the need to upgrade the SCPZs, directed the ministers of agriculture, power and water resources to give immediate priority towards developing roads, power, water and gas supply as a means to ensuring easy movement as well as reducing the costs of agriculture and agro-businesses to be extended to all SCPZs.

President Jonathan assured that his government was committed to ensuring food sufficiency in rice production as a priority. "Nigeria must be self-sufficient in food production. In this regard, our rice production programme has continued to receive very focused attention along the National food policy last year so that we can grow two or three cycles in a year instead of only once this year."

He noted that as a strong private sector responds to our rice policy, the integrated rice mills have grown from 1-18 functional integrated mills producing high-quality rice which meets with international standards and can compete with imported ones, adding that the private sector is key to achieving our transformation agenda and agriculture and rice production cannot be an exception.

The president said he was speaking as a proud consumer of the nation's local rice as, in the State House, it is only the Nigerian rice that is served. He added: "Our goal of making Nigeria a net exporter of rice will be achieved faster by encouraging large commercial farmers that will complement our small-scale farmers. Large mechanised farms like OLAM with 6000 hectares will not only boost food production but also provide significant opportunities for jobs in the rural areas."

"The current investment of over 400 million USD by Olam is a very good example of how to build an integrated value chain combining commercial agricultural rice farms, out-growers, small farmers and modern rice mills like the one commissioned."

Speaking in his welcome address, minister of agriculture and rural development Dr Akinwumi Adesina said getting rice on the plate starts with a good variety. "We introduced new varieties FARO 44 and FARO 52 that are long-grained varieties excellent for long-grained parboiled rice liked by consumers.

He said the farmers growing the improved varieties had increased from 136,000 in 2012 to 1.9 million by the wet season of 2013 and 3 million farmers by 2014. "Today, over 50 per cent of the rice farmers cultivate these new varieties in the wet season while 100 per cent of them cultivate them in the dry season."

Akinwumi revealed that since the president launched the ATA in 2011, Nigeria's paddy rice production had increased by an additional 7 million metric tonnes with the support of Olam Farms which supplied improved seeds to farmers. "We are closing Nigeria's rice production gap; we are rapidly expanding Nigeria's integrated rice mills in the country. The number of integrated rice mills has expanded from just one in 2011 to 18 in 2013," he said, adding that Nigeria will be turned into a net exporter of rice in five years.

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Source: AllAfrica

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