FG to open up 200 dams for irrigation — Ogbeh

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, said on Friday that the Federal Government plans to open up over 200 underutilised Dams to boost irrigation across the country.

The minister disclosed this at the ground-breaking ceremony of the largest poultry farm in sub-Sahara Africa, located in Kaduna.

Ogbeh, who was presented by Executive Director Operation of the ministry, Mr Obinna Okpara, said that the government also plans to focus on exploring the local and foreign market for farmers.

He said that the emphasis would be on poultry, beef, milk, goat and sheep which are in very high demand in Nigeria and beyond.

The minister reiterated the resolve of the federal government to ensure food self-sufficiency in the country.

He said government’s vision for the revival of agriculture sector between 2016-2020, was to transform the sector into a viral engine of growth and accelerated national development.

“The overwhelming goal of the roadmap is to build an agricultural business economy capable of meeting our domestic food security, generate export to broaden national revenue base.

“This is to support sustainable income through wealth creation, promotion of entrepreneurship for fostering youth employment and enhancing national productivity.”

The minister stressed that under the road map, Nigeria anticipates self-sufficiency in local staples within 36 months in rice, maize, millet, wheat, legumes and soya beans production.

According to him, this would help achieve import substitution and significantly stabilise and reduce the high import bill currently being generated on food items.

“Reaching this target and other outlined issues on our roadmap will entail total cultivation of additional two million hectares of land yielding two crops in a year.

“It is clear that huge volumes of food is needed to feed our national population of 170 million people, and agriculture can no longer be treated as a seasonal enterprise fully dependent on rainfall.”

He said the investment by Olam in Kaduna would reduce over dependence on imported products.

“It is no doubt a spectacular investment in line with the determination of the federal government to diversify the nation’s economy.”

The minister decried the massive importation of frozen poultry products into the country, which is costing the nation over 100 million dollars annually, thereby depleting the country’s foreign reserve.

He said that the government is currently tackling the issue of Avian Influenza in partnership with the Poultry Association of Nigeria.

He urged Olam to invest in research and development in animal health and extend extension delivery services to farmers.

In his speech, Gov. Nasiru El-Rufai of Kaduna State said the Olam investment would create jobs and offer ready market to farmers for grains and soya beans.

He also said the project would enhance economic activities through transactions in eggs, day old chicks and other poultry products.

The governor pledged to attract more investments into agriculture and mining so as “to put money into people’s pocket, because people with money do not fight.

“As a government we can only directly employ tiny population of our people, but we will provide enabling environment for private sector to employ millions of people.”

In his comment, Olam’s CEO for Africa, Mr Venkataramani Srivathsan, said the company would invest 150 million dollars into the project.

“This is the latest investment by Olam in Nigeria’s domestic food and agricultural production sector with the investment of over 30 billion Naira, US$150.0 million in total investments.”

According to him, the feed mills will produce in excess of 600,000 tonnes per annum of high-quality poultry and fish feed, and hatch over one million eggs weekly.

“The feed mills will procure most of their corn and soybeans requirements locally, spurring growth of these domestic crops.

“Olam will create over 100,000 metric tonnes of in-house storage capacity, which will also help support food security.

“The increased productivity and returns is expected to stimulate rural self-employment opportunities, particularly for young people,

“The company is developing community partnerships by working with the Kaduna State Government to develop a model for supplying eggs and chicken for its school meals programme at below-market prices.

“ It is also working with the neighbouring communities to create a Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CRS) agenda covering education, health and sanitation.”

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