The African Development Bank (AfDB) Chief Operations Officer, Dr. Patrick Agboma, has expressed optimism that Nigeria can stop the importation of rice by 2015, if the right things are done.
Speaking in an interview on Wednesday, Agboma said that all the Federal Government needed to do was to triple rice production from the current production figures.
“If you hear about the amount of rice the country imports, you will wonder why it cannot produce its own rice. So the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) is to address this shortfall,’’ Agboma said.
It would be recalled that the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, had announced in 2012 that the country will stop the importation of rice by 2015, as the commitment to ensure rice sufficiency.
According to Agboma, the bank is willing to help the Federal Government attain its food sufficiency target.
He recalled that the bank had earlier received a request from the Federal Government for assistance toward the agricultural agenda.
Agboma said that progress been made with the government’s new rice policy, with the private sector providing 13 rice mills with 240,000-tonne production capacity.
He observed that with only 40 per cent of the over 84 million hectares of arable land currently utilised, the agricultural potential of the country had yet to be tapped.
Agboma added that this was why the sector remained critical in the diversification of the economy.
“There is cause for hope; we can begin by improving budgetary allocation to agriculture. In the 2013 budget proposal of over N4 trillion, agriculture and rural development was allocated just N81.41billion.
“This is far less than the 10 per cent that the African Union, in its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme adopted in 2003, that its member nations should dedicate to agriculture,’’ Agboma said.
He advised that the country could emulate some progressive countries, which had made agriculture a priority.
He said that Rwanda reportedly achieved 15 per cent rise in food production in 2008 by simply increasing its investment in agriculture by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2009.
“Also, under the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s government encouraged local farmers by providing them with vouchers for subsidised maize seeds and fertilisers and drastically cutting imports.
“The country reportedly announced a harvest of 3.2 million tonnes of maize in 2010/2011 season, against a national consumption of 2.4 million tonnes,” Agboma said.
He noted that Rwanda also exported maize to countries such as Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Sudan.
He stressed that it was possible for Nigeria to achieve this also.
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