…Okays N24bn compensation for rice farmers affected by flood
…National Food Security Council seeks ban of NPK 151515 fertilizer
In a move to reduce the price of rice in the country and support the industry, the Federal Government has approved N60 billion as subsidy for rice proposed by the National Food Security Council.
Speaking after a meeting with the President at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu and the Minister of Agricultural and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe, announced this on Friday while briefing State House correspondents.
The minister said that the government would handle the subsidy programme differently from other subsidy programmes, adding that the sum of N24 billion was also approved by the President to compensate rice farmers whose farms were affected by the recent flood.
“We don’t want to get into petroleum subsidy problem, so a committee is looking at it with the Ministry of Finance.
“We think that it is better for us to loan money to the millers, farmers and distributors at a very low interest rate, so that the capital doesn’t disappear, so they have cheaper credit to do their business that should impact on the price of rice in the market. When we are ready, we will let you know,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Food Security Council has called on the Federal Government to ban NPK 151515 fertilizer which has been used in the country for many years.
It said that recent research revealed it is not useful for any crop or any soil.
“Soils differ and so does crop, to believe there is one uniform fertilizer you can spread for every crop is a fallacy.
“It’s because we have done soil test and change the formulations of fertilizers, local blenders that some of the yields we are getting now are rising from two tonnes per hectares to five and six. So the president is looking into that and see how we can deal with it,” the council said.
The council also disclosed that the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) is about to restructure the Bank of Agriculture after which farmers are going to be able to buy shares in the bank, so eventually it will become the farmers bank.
“We hope in the process that it will bring down interest rates reasonably maybe 5 percent or a little higher, so that agriculture will become attractive and people can raise capital to invest.
“On herdsmen/farmers clashes, we are putting in place a programme now to see if we can aggregate all the wastes from harvest – from maize stock, rice stock, sorghum, Millets, beans, process them, add molasses and feed the cows instead of letting them roam around and getting to this conflict with the farmers,” the council stated.
The National Food Security Council added: “We also announced a decline in foreign exchange expenditure on food items in the last five years. The items are sugar, milk, Rick, tomato and wheat. In 2013 we spent $1,424,968.1 importing these five good items, the figure dropped to $1.280 billion in 2014.
“These are figures from the CBN as far Monday this week. In 2015 the figure dropped further to $971 million and to $780.792 million and in 2017 the figure is now $628,643 million. The figure for the 2018 will be ready next year. You can see the decline in our importation of food.”
On US agency’s report that Nigeria will be the world’s second largest importer of rice in 2019, Kebbi State Governor and Chairman of the National Food Security Council, Atiku Bagudu downplayed the report, saying,
“We drew the attention of the council to a report by the US department for agriculture which suggested that Nigeria has been importing rice or about to the tune of about three million tonnes.
“We informed the council that contact has been made with the US agency to tell is the basis for the report because it’s not consistent with the report available to us.
“The only official importation in Nigeria is about 4,000 metric tonnes of rice.
Secondly, the biggest exporter of rice, Thailand exported 1.1 million metric tonnes of rice to West Africa between January to October this year and India exported 402 million metric tonnes of rice to West Africa between January to end of July this year.
That is a total of 1.5 million metric tonnes. Even if all was smuggled into Nigeria, that was the total amount of importation one could attribute to Nigeria.
“So, the US authorities responded by saying that their assessment was based on satellite imaging of flooded areas and consideration that we are about to enter electioneering period and that demand for rice by politicians or for political purposes will increase.
Thirdly, that most West African countries depend on Nigeria so because of the flooding, they concluded based on those assumptions that Nigeria will import more.”
He insisted that “Certainly, that is an erroneous report, even in spite of the flooding, the upland rice production has been quite strong this year. Even though prices have increase in response to flooding, we still have adequate paddy rice in Nigeria.”
President Muhammadu Buhari had constituted the National Food Security Council in March in 2018 with the following as members- the governors of Kebbi, Taraba, Plateau, Lagos, Ebonyi and Delta states;
the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Chief of Staff to the President, the National Security Adviser and seven cabinet ministers.