By Palma Ileye
Federal Government through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, FMAFS, has restated commitments to vastly increase agricultural production all-year round with the cardinal objective of driving down food inflation, creating employment, reducing poverty, engendering economic growth and development, as well promoting inclusivity.
This was disclosed yesterday by Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, FMAFS, Sen Abubakar Kyari while playing host to Governors of Kwara State, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Taraba State, Dr. Agbu Kefas, Ondo State, Lucky Aiyedatiwa and Kogi State, Ahmed Usman Ododo who were on a courtesy visit at the Ministry’s Headquarters in Abuja.
Kyari stated that the readiness of State Governors to be more involved in the development of the sector, the more sustainable agricultural production becomes and the higher the chances of realising the interconnected 8-Point Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
He spoke extensively on measures being taken by the Ministry to boost food production, create wealth, reduce poverty and engender economic growth in the country.
According to him, rhis visit was without a doubt a huge endorsement for the progressive drive towards the much-needed collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and State Governments, with a view to creating an Agricultural Sector fit for a nation as endowed as Nigeria with massive arable fertile land, abundant water resources and agricultural labour force.
He said, “Ahead of the second phase of the Dry Season Food Production Programme under the National Agricultural Growth Scheme and Agro-Pocket, NASG-AP, I sent out Expression of Interests to the Governors of the 36 States and FCT to which responses have been encouraging. Indeed, a number of your Brother Governors have paid visits to our Corporate Headquarters here.
“These include The Executive Governors of Jigawa, Katsina, Ekiti, Niger, Kebbi, and Sokoto states in furtherance of the collaboration that we are seeking for the success of the Dry Season Food Production Programme.
“There is no question that if we get things right now, and without an iota of doubt with all hands on the plough, future programmes and projects will enable us more seamlessly achieve all-year-round agricultural production with beneficial consequences for Economic Empowerment, Inclusivity and ultimately wider opportunities for Value Addition, Food and Nutrition Security as well as Industrialization.
“We are putting behind us the challenges encountered during the First Phase of the Dry Season Farming with Wheat in 15 participating States. After detailed and careful evaluation of some of the glitches that characterized that phase, and with collective stakeholders’ proposals, there will be additional implementation guidelines for the Second Phase commencing soon.
“The phase we are about to get into is particularly crucial because, unlike the phase one for Wheat Production, which involved only 15 States, the second phase will cover the entire country. We will therefore, like you to use the instrumentality of your offices as Governors to ensure the readiness of your respective States for optimal participation in this second phase for the cultivation of rice, maize, and cassava.
“Among the readiness criteria that we would like to reiterate for this phase are that the land is prepared and available for immediate cultivation; that the irrigable lands are allotted or owned by verifiable genuine farmers; and that the state is participating to the last mile of the entire chain.
“We have seen the examples of some states in the course of the Wheat Production Programme, and even now in preparation for the Second Phase. These states have purchased power tillers and other mechanized implements, solar-powered water pumps, and recruited and trained Extension Agents whose involvement is vital to the dissemination of agricultural innovations to the farmers including equipping them with suitable agronomic practices and expectedly higher yields per hectare.”
The Minister pointed out that a success factor in the second phase will involve early determination by States of adequacy of 50% subsidies being provided by the Federal Government under the NASG Project saying that this was because some farmers in some states could not come up with counterpart funding required for their input redemption thereby prompting some State Governments to further subsidize them.
Explaining that in restructuring the guidelines for this second phase, the expectation was that Executive Governors or theirs designated representatives will chair the Implementation Committee at the State Level.
“Among others, the task of the Committee will be to ensure compliance with guidelines for the redemption of tokens for agro inputs, apprehending and dealing decisively with cases of portfolio farmers, round-tripping, and infusion of substandard agro-inputs into the distribution chain of certified and premium quality seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and micro-nutrients,” he added.
Also, Kwara State Governor said that food produced in Nigeria was the cheapest in West African region due to the current devaluation of naira.
AbdulRazaq pointed out that the neighbouring countries were currently using Nigeria’s food to trade maintaining that food security should be the most paramount and urgent thing to tackle in the country in view of the skyrocketing prices of food items in the market.
The Governor who commended the re-invigoration of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security by the present administration, lamented that the functions of the Ministry were taken over by the Central Bank of Nigeria, over the past four years.
He said: “We are quite glad to be here today. Food Security is the urgent thing to tackle now. One thing that has to come to realisation is that there is a new Ministry of Agriculture. Over the past four years, prior to this administration, the engagement was not productive.
“The CBN had taken over most of the functions of the Ministry. But this time around, we are seeing strong engagement, that is why we are here today.
“We have also noted that food in Nigeria is the cheapest in West Africa and our neighbours are using our food to trade.
“They are taking our soya bean and other stuffs to make foreign exchange for themselves.
“That is not a bad thing, what we need to do is to ramp up production and increase yield per hectare so that we can feed west Africa, feed ourselves 100 percent and export food. That is the goal we must achieve.
“We could not achieve much with the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme, it was very challenging. The issue of food security is a one stop shop and we need to concentrate on what we are doing for dry season farming.”
He added that the Minister of Agriculture had come up with a dry season programme on cassava, rice and maize production, adding that “we want to engage in that programme and urgently make sure we improve on our yields and deliver to the Nigerian population.”