The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, said on Monday that Nigeria’s food importation had reduced from N2.3 trillion to N1.8 trillion annually, saving the country N906 billion.
Adesina said this in Makurdi when he paid a courtesy visit to Gov Gabriel Suswam of Benue State.
“Agriculture is vital for Nigerians; that is why the President has made it the centre of his economic transformation agenda.
“When President Goodluck Jonathan made the decision, the goal was to add our domestic food supply, 20 million metric tons of rice and create 3.5 million jobs in a period of four years.
“In two years, we have added 15 million metric tonness of food and food importation has reduced from N2.3 trillion to N906 billion.”
He said that the Federal Government had delivered 16,744 tonnes of fertiliser, more than 450 tonnes of hybrid seeds and 738,000 cassava stems to farmers in Benue State.
Adesina added that the Federal Government had also completed two 2,000-tonne capacity warehouses and was committed to developing Staple Crop Processing Zones (SCPZ) that would enable farmers to add value to their produce, with Benue State as a beneficiary.
He said that the SCPZs, when completed across the country, would add N1.4 trillion to nation’s GDP.
The minister said that four agricultural hiring equipment centres would be established in the state, to enable registered farmers to engage in mechanised farming.
He called for greater collaboration among the tiers of government and commended the governor’s support for Agricultural Transformational Agenda.
Responding, Suswam assured the minister of the support of his administration and that of the people of Benue.
He said he was pleased with the establishment of SCPZs stressing that with the development would put Benue on the map of development.
He told Adesina that his name would be written in gold in the history of development in the country.
Suswam said hitherto the coming of the minister, agriculture was only seen as a means to access food and not a business that would fetch a lot of money as it is today.
He appreciated the commitment of the minister to agricultural development in the country, saying: “the quality you brought to the sector is outstanding.”
Suswam suggested that more attention should be given to yam processing as the state was one of the highest producers of the commodity in the country, yet little was known about it.
The governor identified the major problem confronting farmers as land clearing as they lacked proper equipment which made them turn to smallholding.
He said with the agricultural equipment hiring centres, Benue alone would feed the whole of Africa.
The highlight of the the minister’s visit was the inspection of Micap Rice Mills accompanied by politicians and top government officials in the state.