Food import bill declines to N466bn, says Fed Govt

The Federal Government has said the country’s food import bill has declined to N466 billion in the last three years.

The government also said the agricultural sector added N780 billion to the economy during the same period.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who spoke in Abuja during the inauguration of the first commercial 10 per cent composite cassava flour product from Flour Mills of Nigeria and the Honeywell Group.

He said: “Our food import bill declined from N1.1trillion in 2011 to N634billion by the end of 2013 and it continues to decline.

“Our farmers are seeing the benefits and they are producing more food. Our national food production expanded by an additional 21 million metric tons of food within three years, this is a record in our nation’s history.”

At the event, equipment that will enable bakers raise the bar of cassava inclusion to 20 per cent and beyond were inaugurated.

Adesina also said Nigeria’s bread  contains cassava flour, adding that all cakes and confectioneries eaten in the country now contain cassava flour.

He said: “With today’s momentous events, the landscape of cassava in Nigeria has been changed forever.  “No more will cassava be seen as a subsistence crop for household and village-level processing. Cassava has become the raw material of choice for the burgeoning bread flour, sweetener, starch, and ethanol market.”

Earlier, the Permanent Secretary, Sunday Echono, said  the actualisation of the 20 per cent cassava flour in wheat for bread will save Nigeria N127billion yearly.

Echono also said it would create 1.3 million jobs which would help to grow rural agro industries.

“Apart from this, about 1.3 million jobs will be created. In the process, we shall grow the rural agro industries, at the same time increase processing activities and our farmers’ livelihood would have been highly improved and the nation will ultimately be better off for it,” he said.

He said in the past two years, the sector has attracted $5.6 billion in investment.

Speaking at a conference/exhibition, titled, Agra Innovate by Informa/Afrocet in Lagos, he said the sector has also received good financial assistance from the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), the United Kingdom Department for International Development, United States Agency for International Development, United Nations Development Programme, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

He also said in three years, food production rose by 21 million metric tonnes, ahead of the four-year target of 20 million MT by 2015. Quoting the National Bureau of Statistics, Akinwunmi said food imports declined from N 1.1 trillion ($ 6.7 billion) in 2009 to N684 billion ($4.35 billion) last year.

He said: “The latest release by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics shows that the agriculture sector grew by 9.19 per cent (Year-on-Year) in Q3 of 2014, up by 2.72 percentage points from Q3 of 2013. The agriculture sector grew by 38.53 per cent (quarter-on-quarter basis) in Q3 of 2014, with crop production being the main driver with a growth of 43.50 per cent.

“For too long, Africa has depended on food imports, spending a whopping $35 billion on food imports yearly. This makes no sense. Africa must end the era of prodigal economics, where it ignores its own agricultural potential and turns itself into a net food importing region.

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