By Igboeli Arinze
Prior to the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari , a number of administrations before him had paid lip service to boosting our agricultural capabilities and its potential towards ensuring not only that we achieve the aim of food security for our citizenry but also earn the much needed foreign exchange as well as move us from an import dependent nation to one that is self reliant.
What the past administrations did was to churn out policy after policy, however there seemed to be no real will to implement any of these policies, whatever we did then did not go beyond jamborees and heavy but empty sloganeering, losing every opportunity we had to wean this country off our consumption for foreign food and other products we could easily have produced here.
From the launch of the Anchor Borrowers Program, which had the thrust of providing small holder farmers with the much needed input and loans for farm labour boosting production as well as for agro processors. This policy charge is led and underwritten by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). The programme has helped increase the financial sector’s involvement in the agricultural sector, one in which they had previously shied away resulting unto in the massive reduction of our food importation bill, saving up on our foreign reserve and increasing the capacity of our agro processing firms and industries.
Let us then look to our improved status as the biggest rice producing nation in Africa, in less than two to three years Nigeria moved from becoming a major rice importer in Africa to becoming the biggest producer in the continent producing 8 million tonnes and relegating nations like Japan and Brazil to lower positions from the ladder of top rice producing nations. In addition to this, Cross River in 2018 commissioned its brand new 3 billion Naira Hybrid Rice Seedlings Factory to supply seedlings nationwide. The Factory, commissioned by President Buhari, is part of CrossRice, a multi-billion Naira Commercial Agriculture Development Project promoted by the Cross River State Rice Company Management Board, the Central Bank of Nigeria and Sterling Bank.
In Anambra, Coscharis Nigeria Limited established a brand new rice mill, a 40,000 MT modular Mill with a second phase of 80,000MT capacity underway with Coscharis investing so far a whooping 12 billion Naira, Prior to this period, it had began growing growing rice on its own farms, and now has more than 2,500 hectares under cultivation.
Lagos State, the centre of excellence is not also left out, with the building of a 32-Metric-Ton per hour Rice Mill in Imota, one of the largest Rice Mills in Africa. It will produce 2.4 million bags of 50kg per annum, and help create an estimated 250,000 jobs. The rice itself will be sourced from other states in Nigeria, an avenue created by the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
A number of other initiatives like the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), FarmerMoni, Livestock Productivity and Resilience Support Project (L-PRES), NIRSAL Agro Geo-Cooperatives Scheme, NIRSAL Multi-Peril Crop Indemnity-Index Insurance, Agriculture for Food and Jobs Plan (AFJP), N-Power Agro, and others, have been launched to give support to the president’s vision on revolutionizing Agriculture in Nigeria. This in turn has provided a spur for a number of state governments as well as private investors to tap into the vision, reaping immense results as well as providing the much needed jobs to our teeming population.
For example states like Kaduna and Kwara now boast of the nation’s biggest integrated animal feed mill as well as a poultry breeding farm and day-old-chick (DOC) hatchery, and an integrated poultry and fish feed mill, respectively. This massive investment which was commissioned in 2017 has the providing our farmers with access to feed, poultry and chicks at far more competitive prices as well as help train our local farmers on best practices in poultry and animal rearing.
In Ekiti State, the Kayode Fayemi led administration is partnering with Promasidor a major player in the food and beverages sector to give boost in investment to the tune of 5 million dollars in the abandoned Ikun Dairy Farm, which at full capacity produce over 10,000 litres of milk per day, and employ more than 1,000 workers. At a stage when the CBN has begun a backward integration policy to ensure that we boost local capacity for milk production, one will agree to the fact that such a move will help meet the nutritional needs of the Nigerian people as well as trigger economic growth.
In Kebbi State, another major player in the food and beverage sector in Nigeria did commission a 20 billion Naira Tomato Processing Factory, and adjoining farm, the second largest factory in Nigeria and the only fully backward integrated plant in ECOWAS – and has the largest single tomatoes farm in Nigeria. When fully completed (all phases), the factory will be the largest fresh tomatoes processing factory in Sub-Saharan Africa. The farm will produce industrial tomatoes in the dry season and soya beans in the rainy season. The soya bean oil will be used to manufacture GBfoods’ Mayonnaise. Likewise, in Ogun, GB Foods in July 2020 again opened its N5.5 billion state-of-the-art mayonnaise production factory in Sango, Ogun State. Recall that it’s farm in Kebbi will be growing soya beans in the rainy seasons, which in turn will be used in the plant in Ogun.
I cannot forget the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative, which was launched in January 2017 resuscitating a total of 22 blending plants by 2019, with a combined installed capacity of over 2.5 million metric tonnes. It is important to note that following such an initiative over 18 million 50kg bags of Fertilizer have been produced and supplied for sale, a major upliftment from our previous state where we had only 4 fertilizer blending plants operating in Nigeria, running at 10% capacity utilization.
Keying into the President’s initiative, the Dangote Group is building a 2-billion-dollar Fertilizer Plant, with the capacity of producing 3 million tons of urea and ammonia per annum. Set to commence production in the first quarter of 2021, it will transform Nigeria into a leading exporter of Urea in sub-Saharan Africa. Dangote Group has also in 2016 launched a Rice Outgrower Scheme covering 150,000 hectares of land in Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kano, Niger and Jigawa States, and is also building a 16MT/hour Rice Mill in Jigawa State, the first of six Rice Mills planned across the above-mentioned States.
In Ondo State, which is Nigeria’s leading grower of cocoa, a 9 billion Naira Chocolate Factory has just been commissioned in September 2020, with the capacity to produce 2.8 million tonnes of chocolate per annum. According to the Governor, to guarantee the supply of cocoa beans to the factory, a 1,700-hectare cocoa plantation has been revived, with 250 farmers directly employed to ensure the supply.
Under the Value Chain Development Programme (VCDP), a partnership between the Federal Government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), women farmers in Niger State are seeing a four-fold increase in rice yields. In the Hadejia River Valley in Jigawa State, which was largely spared the devastating floods that affected parts of Northwest Nigeria, rice harvesting has also commenced.
Even with the rising spate of floods and the devastation it has brought to our food bearing capacity, President Buhari is not resting on his oars , using the instrument of the National Food Security Council (chaired by President Buhari, with Atiku Bagudu who is also the Governor of Kebbi State and serves as its Vice Chair) has met twice in recent weeks to tackle the issues of flooding and rising food prices. Relief interventions are being made available to the farmers affected by the flooding in Kebbi and other parts of the Northwest, with such, the farmers have been adequately compensated and are gradually bouncing back and preparing to re-plant.
I cannot in this piece fully underscore the numerous achievements of the Buhari administration in the agricultural sector; are we talking jobs and prosperity, food security and improved nutrition, an improved economy and a robust foreign reserve?
In one occasion, President Buhari announced to the country
“Through the food security initiative, we are promoting “Grow What We Eat” and “Eat What We Grow”. I am also delighted that more and more Nigerians are taking advantage of the opportunities in the agriculture and agri-business sector.”
This indeed is a promise kept!
Igboeli Arinze is the Managing Editor of realpoliticsnigeria.ng