N1.3tn food import bill reversible – NAAEP boss

The Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian-American Agricultural Empowerment Programme Limited, Chief Temitope Ajayi,  and the Director, Nigerian Agricultural Products Export Promotion Initiative, Dr. Geraldine Ikenna, have said that it is unacceptable for Nigeria to spend about N1.3tn annually on food imports.

They, therefore, called on all stakeholders to collaborate with the Federal Government in its efforts to reduce the food imports as well as boast food security.

Ajayi, in a telephone interview with our correspondent in Ilorin on Thursday, said from available statistics from the Ministry of

Agriculture, Nigeria’s food import was growing at the rate of 11 per cent per annum.

She stated that Nigeria was importing wheat worth N635bn; rice worth N356bn; sugar worth N217bn and fish worth N97bn annually.

According to her, Nigeria’s food import bill was astronomical and difficult to sustain, adding that most of the products being imported could be abundantly produced locally or their local alternatives easily found.

She noted that with greater involvement of the private sector in agricultural revolution, it was possible for Nigeria to drastically reduce its food import bills and even export to other countries as well as earn huge foreign exchange agricultural product exports.

According to her, massive commercial and mechanised agricultural engagements will provide jobs for thousands of unemployed Nigerians and accelerate industrialisation with the development of Small and Medium Enterprises.

She said that Nigeria has a total arable land area of 84 million hectares and lamented that only about 40 per cent was being cultivated, while less than 10 per cent was being optimised.

She said the Federal Government’s plan to reduce Nigeria self-sufficiency in rice production by 2015; end rice imports as well as replace by about 40 per cent Nigeria’s wheat import by 2015 was laudable.

Ajayi also stated that the restructuring and recapitalising of the

Nigeria Agricultural Bank to provide sustainable loans to peasant farmers at a single digit interest rate would help to inject funds, empower rural farmers, boast SMEs as well as create wealth for rural dwellers.

She added that the distribution of fertilizers to farmers, including NAAEP farmers at a subsidised rate by the Federal Government and the cleansing of the rot in fertilizer distribution in Nigeria in which only 11 per cent of the farmers previously received fertilizers, would boast agricultural production and increase food security.

She also said Jonathan’s agricultural transformation agenda had

resulted in Nigeria being the largest producer of cassava in the world with 34 million metric tonnes being produced annually.

She added that in July 2012, Nigerian started the export of dried cassava chips, which she said, would earn the country $136m foreign exchange annually.

“Also, the resuscitation of cotton production particularly in the

North-West and North-East areas of the country, which has led to increased free provision of improved cotton seedlings, would transform the upstream and downstream cotton/textile industries before 2013 end.

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