Agricultural Policy in Nigeria and Dynamics of Yar’Adua’s 7- point agenda

1 Comment » February 15th, 2008 posted by // Categories: Nigeriawatch


Dynamics of Yar’Adua’s 7- point agenda

Umaru Yar’Adua

Group Politics Editor, Idowu Samuel, writes on the seven-point agenda of President Umaru Yar’Adua.

He did not mean to create a sensation when he declared lat week that Nigeria annually sunk a huge sum of N1.3 trillion on rice consumption. That sounds unbelievable considering that the amount almost equalled the total budget of the country for 2007. But the Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources, Dr. Abba Ruma Sayyadi, has had his facts and figures produced from an intensive research that his ministry had been conducting for almost a year now.

Ruma was not particular about rice consumption alone. He also wanted Nigerians to know that their governments, over the years, have been importing not less than N1.5 million metric tonnes of imported wheat amounting to N54 billion. Rice and wheat remain the most heavily consumed staple food items by almost all families in Nigeria, according to the ministry.

He said the ministry had also noted that Nigerians consumes not less than 1.8 million metric tonnes of sugar imported annually into the country, adding that the Federal Government had developed a comprehensive agricultural policy aimed at producing rice, wheat and sugar locally and in large quantities.

According to Ruma, the passion by Nigerians for rice and bread consumption was responsible for the huge expenses made by the government and individuals on rice and wheat importation. It thus comes to mind that Nigeria must pay heavy taxes to the countries from where the food items were imported, given the sustained high volume involved.

The minister could not have been wrong on the statistics he offered on the annual price of rice consumption. At a point in time in the country, rice became the most privileged staple food consumed. It had been a food item usually reserved for special occasions, even as families cared much to make it a seasonal food.

Today, rice has become the most indispensable food item for almost every family and that accounts for why it ranks as the most smuggled commodity into the country. Indication that Nigerians have a very high regard for rice consumption usually plays out during festive periods. It commands so much respect that politicians in Nigeria have factored it in as one major campaign tool. Last December for instance, federal ministries, government agencies, national and state legislatures and well to do individuals found it most convenient to place order for many bags of rice which they distributed to party members, friends, supporters, hangers-on, total institutions and generally to the less-privileged in their respective areas. It all goes to prove that the statistics offered by the minister was never a ruse.

But now, Ruma said the huge amount that Nigeia spends annually on rice importation must stop. Instead of Nigeria to spend such a huge sum on importation, it should boost local production of the imported food items, thereby upping the country’s chance to earn foreign exchange.

“We have sat down and done our calculations well. Almost every family in Nigeria consumes rice in large quantities, so also bread. That is why more people engage in smuggling of the items, not minding the risks involved. We spend these huge sums of money importing the items and now we are determined, as a ministry, to be earning these amounts annually rather than spending them”, the minister said.

If the minister believes he is not talking in vacuum, the reason could be anchored on a blueprint that the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources has developed for advancing the cause of agriculture and guaranteeing food security in Nigeria. The blueprint has identified four food crops considered most critical to enhancing the growth of the sector. The crops include; rice, wheat, sugar and cassava. The first three crops, according to the minister, could fetch Nigeria huge foreign exchange annually if cultivated locally and packaged for export. Already, cassava is increasingly becoming a revenue earner for Nigeria in view of the emphasis that the government has placed on it.

In addition, the blueprint highlights agro-processing and storage as another tool for developing the agricultural sector. The strategy involved here is for the government to identify one food crop prevalent in each zone of the federation with a view to encouraging each of the zones to boost the production of such food crops. The purpose is not to only to grow the food crop for local consumption but essentially for export.

The blueprint on agriculture, which has a touch of the seven-point agenda of President Umaru Yar’Adua, is expected to revolutionise agriculture, using “a co-sourcing methodology”. In that case, the Federal Government would engage experts, the private sector and individuals in a partnership meant to fully develop the sector like never before.

Ruma said tractors would be made available in large quantities, the private sector having been brought in to make purchases. The tractors would then be leased out to farmers at token fees for them to engage in different scales of farming. That system is already on in India and China. The farmers are also to enjoy soft loans and credit facilities which the government intends to make available.

The new government policy on agriculture is holistic, in that it considers a review of the Land Use Decree to make land available to farmers even as a means of collateral meant to take care of bank loans.

According to him, the ministry would deploy an effective price intervention mechanism in the process of fulfilling its desire to ensure food security such that fluctuations in the prices of their food crops would not in any way affect farmers who are actively engaged in farming.

Ruma also disclosed that the ministry was more prepared to deploy modern technology to bring about mechanisation in agriculture and ensure proper management of the sector.

The minister, in unfolding his vision for agriculture, believes that no one should expect less from him as a product of Harvard University in the United States. He is proud that the university, noted for one of best academic curricular in the world, had equipped him with quality materials just like any of its other scholars to excel in the face of any challenges.

The implication is that Nigeria should expect a sweeping turn around in the Ministry of Agriculture as the minister bubbles daily with fresh and timely ideas.

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One Response to “Agricultural Policy in Nigeria and Dynamics of Yar’Adua’s 7- point agenda”

  1. T.P says:

    I love this article, chao

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