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FG mulls N60b rice subsidy, N24b compensation for flood victims

FG mulls N60b rice subsidy, N24b compensation for flood victims

The National Council on Food Security on Friday said Federal government has set aside the sum of N60b to subsidize rice production in Nigeria.

The Council also announced that the Bureau of Public Enterprises BPE has concluded plans to restructure the bank of agriculture.

He noted that the restructuring will now made it possible for investors and farmers to buy shares in the bank.

“It will eventually become the farmers bank. And we hope that in the process this will bring down interest rates reasonably maybe 5 percent or a little higher, so that agriculture will become attractive and people can raise capital to invest”

This is just as the Council said government has also set aside another N24b to mitigate the negative effect of flooding on states ravaged by the recent flood disaster that destroyed farm lands across the country.

READ ALSO: The fury of floods and food insecurity

The Governor of Kebbi State and Vice Chairman of the Council, Atiku Bagudu, and Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe disclosed this at the Presidential Villa on Friday while briefing State House Correspondents after the Council’s meeting presided over by President Muhammmadu Buhari.

“There is a subsidy programme coming up, government has approved N60 billion to support the rice industry to bring down prices. But we are going to handle it differently, we don’t want to get into petroleum subsidy problem, so a committee is looking at it with the ministry of finance.

“We think that it is better for us to loan money to the millers, farmers and distributors at a very low interest rate, so that the capital doesn’t disappear, so they have cheaper credit to do their business that should impact on the price of rice in the market. When we are ready we will let you know.

The Council also used the opportunity to debunk claims by the United States Department of Agriculture that Nigeria will be the second largest importer of rice from 2019

The agency had projected 13 per cent rise in Nigeria’s rice importation from next year to 3.4 million metric tons.

Bagudu who said the report was based on the recent flooding, added that it has no direct bearing with the current rice production capacity of Nigeria.
Speaking on the herdsmen/farmers clashes, Ogbe said was putting in place a programme that will aggregate all the wastes from harvest – from maize stock, rice stock, sorghum, Millets, beans, process them, add molasses to feed the cows instead of allowing them roam around and getting to this conflict with the farmers.

Federal government also announced a decline in foreign exchange expenditure on food items in the last five years, including sugar, milk, Rick, tomato and wheat.

“In 2013 we spent $1,424,968.1 importing these five good items, the figure dropped to $1.280 billion in 2014.”

“These are figures from the CBN as far Monday this week. In 2015 the figure dropped further to $971 million and to $780.792 million and in 2017 the figure is now $628,643 million. The figure for the 2018 will be ready next year. You can see the decline in our importation of food”
“We drew the attention of the council to a report by the US department for agriculture which suggested that Nigeria has been importing rice or about to the tune of about three million tonnes.

“We informed the council that contact has been made with the US agency to tell us the basis for the report because it’s not consistent with the report available to us.

“The only official importation in Nigeria is about 4,000 metric tonnes of rice. Secondly, the biggest exporter of rice, Thailand exported 1.1 million metric tonnes of rice to west Africa between January to October this year and India exported 402 million metric tonnes of rice to west Africa between January to end of July this year. That is a total of 1.5 million metric tonnes. Even if all was smuggled into Nigeria, that was the total amount of importation one could attribute to Nigeria.

“So, the US authorities responding by saying that their assessment was based on satellite imaging of flooded areas and consideration that we are about to enter electioneering period and that demand for rice by politicians or for political purposes will increase. Thirdly, that most west African countries depend on nigeria so because of the flooding, they concluded based on those assumptions that Nigeria will import more.”

“Certainly, that is an erroneous report, even in spite of the flooding the upland rice production has been quite strong this year. Even though prices have increase in response to flooding, we still have adequate paddy rice in Nigeria.

Government said it has banned a brand of fertilizer known as NPK 151515 which has been used in the country for many years but recent research revealed its not useful for any crop or any soil.
“Soils differ and so does crop, to believe there is one uniform fertilizer you can spread for every crop is a fallacy. And it’s because we have done soil test and change the formulations of fertilizers, local blenders that some of the yields we are getting now are rising from two tonnes per hectares to five and six. So the president is looking into that and see how we can deal with it.