President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Monday commissioned Olam Nigeria’s 105,000 Metric Tonnes Integrated Rice Processing Mill, Nasarawa State. Here’s what the President said..
1. I am very pleased to be here today for the commissioning of the OLAM Integrated Rice Mill. I congratulate OLAM for its investment in Nigerian agriculture sector. Indeed, this is a mark of confidence in the success of our agricultural policies, their effective implementation, and the resilience of our economy. 2. Nigeria’s position today, as the largest economy in Africa, in terms of GDP, is important, but 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.
3. When I launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011, our goal was to add an extra 20 million metric tons of food to our domestic food supply by 2015. Our progress in this direction has been remarkable. The innovative electronic wallet system has empowered 10 million farmers with access to subsidized high quality seeds and fertilizers. We were the first country in Africa to launch this system that has now assured greater transparency and better productivity in the sector.
4. Over the past three years, our farmers have produced over 17 million metric tons of food. Steadily on this path, we expect to surpass our 2015 target of 20 million metric tons of food, by the end of this year. Now with better policy articulation and enhanced technology, our farmers, small and large, are all being touched by the new drive for food production across the country.
5. Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot justify the huge amount of rice we import 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.
6. 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 One trillion, one hundred billion naira (N1.1tr) ($6.9billion dollars) as at 2009, we have reduced our food import bill to Six hundred and eighty four billion, seven million naira (N684.7billion) ($4.35billion dollars) as at December 2013. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Nigeria must be self-sufficient in food production. 7. In this regard, our rice production programme has continued to receive very focussed attention. I launched the national dry season farming policy last year, so that we can grow two or three cycles in the year, instead of only once each year. It is encouraging that our national paddy rice production has grown by an additional 7 million metric tonnes within three years. This is remarkable but we have to work harder still.
8. The private sector is key to our transformation agenda and agriculture and rice production cannot be an exception. I am pleased at the strong private sector response to our rice policy. Recently the number of integrated rice mills has grown from just one functional, three years ago, to eighteen, today.
9. These mills are producing high quality local rice that meets international standards, and competes well with imported rice. And don’t forget, Nigerian rice is tastier and healthier than imported rice, because our local rice is fresh from the farm.Let me add that I am also speaking as a proud consumer of our Nigerian rice. 10. Our goal of making Nigeria a net exporter of rice will be achieved faster by encouraging large commercial farms that will complement our small-scale farmers. Large mechanized 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. Our youths will be supported to go into mechanized farming, and to pursue agriculture as a business.
11. 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.
12. We 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. 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. More of such rice business investments will be promoted with the various incentives under the new rice policy.
13. As we make progress, I expect 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.
14. A strong collaboration between the Federal Government and State Governments, in national development and in the implementation of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda is very important, and will continue to be strengthened. States will need to provide secure land for farmers and agribusinesses, and I commend the Governor and people of Nassarawa State for facilitating a conducive environment for OLAM’s business to thrive, with benefit to the people.
15. The Federal Government has launched the Staple Crop Processing Zones, to address the infrastructure constraints faced by agribusinesses, and to encourage them to go deeper into our rural areas, to process and add value to our agricultural produce. These zones will be upgraded with improved infrastructure, especially roads, power, water and gas supply, to reduce the cost of doing agribusiness in these rural areas.
16. The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is working actively with State Governments, private sector and development finance institutions, to mobilize resources to establish these Staple Crop Processing Zones.
17. I am pleased to announce here today, that to buttress the huge investment and the locational development already in place here, the OLAM farm area is hereby designated a Staple Crop Processing Zone. I direct that the Ministries of Agriculture, Works, Power and Water Resources work jointly and assiduously to facilitate infrastructure support systems around this zone and, indeed all other Staple Crop Processing Zones, as part of our National Infrastructure Master plan.
18. I congratulate the Minister of Agriculture and his team, and all the staff of OLAM for this very encouraging demonstration of what strong public-private sector partnerships can achieve. Let me assure you that my administration will continue to promote public-private sector partnerships to drive Nigeria’s holistic transformation and our agriculture, to greater heights, until we fully unlock our potential as a Nation, and achieve our dream of becoming an agricultural power house.
19. It is now my great pleasure to formally commission the OLAM Rice Milling Facility to the glory of God and the benefit of our people.