Nigeria will become self-sufficient in rice production by the end of 2018, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has said.
Speaking on Monday at the Platform, a yearly conference organised by the Christian Covenant Centre, in Lagos, Osinbajo said: “If all goes well, we should be producing all of our own rice by the end of 2018.”
He added: “And if we are able to do so, it means that the substantial part of our foreign exchange that we spend now importing rice will be saved.”
Osinbajo explained at the event that major growth in rice production was the result of the government’s decision to focus on agriculture as part of its efforts to diversify the nation’s economy.
He said, “For us, focusing on agriculture was key. And there are two good reasons; agriculture – the whole agro-allied value chain – is clearly the fastest ways of creating jobs and lifting millions out of poverty.”
According to Osinbajo, considering that the majority of Nigerians are actually poor, subsistence farmers, the government decided that to move them out of poverty, it will need to provide them with the right inputs, especially seedlings, fertilizer, and equipment so that they can actually multiply their yield and make more money.
“So, through the CBN’s anchor borrowers programme, we were able to provide financing for almost 200,000 farmers in the first place and in almost all of the cases, local production has almost tripled,” he said.
“We are now producing close to almost four million tons of rice.”
He said as a result, in 2016, Nigeria imported just about 10 per cent of the amount of rice it imported in 2015.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is building a productive Nigerian economy for a sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
She said: “while mistakes have been made in the past, this administration is looking ahead and laying the ground work to build a resilient economy that is not vulnerable to boom and bust cycles.”
Other speakers at the event included, former Governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, Professor of Economics Ahmadu Bello University, Professor Abdulraheem Garba, and Chief Economist & Financial Analyst PWC, Andrew Nevin. Others were Prince Bimbo Olashore and Mrs. Nimi Akinkugbe.
The Minister noted that Government revenue remains overly reliant on oil and we must use oil revenue to develop and diversify the economy, not just sustain consumption.
She pointed out that “While oil proceeds have represented between 50 percent and 70 percent of Federal Government revenue over the past 3 years, it has contributed 10% or less to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the same period”.
Mrs. Adeosun emphasised that “we must change our growth model to deliver inclusive and sustainable growth by broadening the range of our economic activities in the production and distribution of goods and services.”
She said that the Federal Government wants to create jobs for the people and to do this, we must look beyond the extractive industry. We must invest across the value chain in Agriculture, Construction, Manufacturing and Trade to localise production, processing and distribution. This will create jobs, drive innovation and support knowledge transfer to local businesses.
Adeosun said, “Our focus is on activities that are value adding to the economy to ensure long-term stability. The infrastructure that we build to facilitate power and transportation, will be vital in achieving diversification and economic growth. We are focused on addressing the challenges we face to deliver services to our people”.
The Government is investing in massive domestic fertilizer production, making it cheaper to grow the food we need and raw materials to support moribund industries. We are also investing in rail – making it quicker and cheaper to get produce across the country. Our pilot programme has shown that we can reduce the cost of food if we can move it across the country faster.
The Minister noted that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are critical to broadening our revenue base and we must make it easier for them to do business.