Wheat/Rice: Nigeria Gears Towards Increased Production, Agric Varsities Return To Mandate
• Farmers Get 75 per cent subsidy • Kano Distributes N100m Seeds to farmers
To fully tap into the pool of requisite manpower expected of the various universities of Agriculture in the country and be equipped to turn the sector around in the event of sliding petro-dollar, the Federal Government is to bring these institutions to face their core mandate.
At the event to mark the start of the 2015 wheat/rice dry season farming in Kano State on Tuesday, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbe said this has become necessary because these institutions have deviated from the core courses from which they were intended to teach. He revealed that every undergraduate in these universities should own a farm to be practically involved in nitty gritty of the main subjects.
The Kano event, the second launch of the dry season plantings, the other having taken place in Kebbi State, mid-November, according to Ogbe shows the commitment of the President Buhari administration to create jobs and reduce poverty using agriculture as the tool.
Dissatisfied with the high rate of wheat importation of $4billion yearly, which has been a drain on the national foreign reserve, the Minister said the trend to reverse it is already in place.
This is with the establishment of the Wheat value chain in 2012 aimed at supporting farmers and scale up programmes to expand wheat area and produce two million metric tonnes by 2017; this approximates to 50 per cent reduction of import bill.
Not oblivious of the challenges facing the production of the grain, Ogbeh said wheat farmers from wheat producing states would be able to source inputs (seeds and fertilizers), farm machinery/equipment at 75 per cent subsidy.
For rice, the Minister said though considerable progress has been made in that of the 5.2 million metric tonnes total demand, about 3.3 MMT is produced locally. More work, according to Ogbe, would be done to improve the production, depending on the Lake Chad Research Institute (LCRI) for generating improved and acceptable wheat production technologies.
On the collaborative effort of sister research institutes, Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, Executive Director, LCRI, said organisations like Federal Institute for Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), Institute of Agricultural Research (IAR), Zaria, and Sasakawa Global 2000 among others are committed to the course of wheat development.
Kano State governor and host of the event, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje, as also presented to the State House of Assembly in the 2016 Budget speech said N7.5billion has been released for agriculture, out of which N100 million is set aside for seed distribution to wheat farmers in the state. Rice farmers were not left out as one billion naira soft loan was released to them for boosting rice production.
Though it may be too early, the Minister indicated during the programme, that the days of returning the state to the glorious era of commodity pyramids is only a matter of time, especially with the resolve of government to focus on agriculture.
CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, represented by a senior official of the bank said it was committed to the nation’s self-sufficiency in food production, working through the state branches. He commended the state government for establishing a microfinance bank in all 44 local government councils to support farmers and people in enterprise.
On the seed side of the event, Maina Seeds MD/CEO, Auwalu Balarabe Wudil traced the positive impact the GES programme has had on the seed subsector, observing that total certified seeds have made a good leap.
However, he called on the Minister to save the National Agricultural Seed Council from financial starvation to enable it play its outstanding role in the agricultural sector.
Wudil said the seed companies have not been paid for the services and seed supplied the government and farmers across the country in the past seasons.