The Federal Government says it is targeting the production of eight million tonnes of paddy by rice farmers across the country in 2018 wet season.
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said this on Monday in Abuja, while speaking to newsmen on the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the past three years.
The minister said that the country was currently producing between 5.8 million and six million tonnes of paddy, adding that it was targeting the production of nine million tonnes by 2019.
He said that the rice revolution was the most outstanding achievement recorded in the Buhari-administration’s economic diversification efforts in three years.
Ogbeh said that the feats in the rice revolution were attained through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The minister, who noted that in the past, Nigeria spent over five million U.S. dollars a day on rice importation, said that rice importation had reduced by 95 per cent from December 2015 till date.
“The number of farmers growing paddy rice has risen from five million to 12.2 million; more farmers are coming in as we clear more land for them and arrange irrigation facilities.
“By the end of this planting season which we are entering, we should be approaching eight million tonnes of paddy, which will give us roughly 6.5 million tonnes of processed rice.
“We hope that by this time next year, we should be targeting nine million tonnes of paddy because the good thing is that rice grows everywhere in the country.
“Irrigation has to come on board for us to achieve this because as long as we depend on rain-fed agriculture, we would have difficulties in achieving the target.
“When the CBN came up in partnership with us on the ABP loan at nine percent interest rate, which to the farmer was a biggest relief they have seen in years; even though it is still too high but it made all the difference.
“We are still pushing for five per cent,’’ he added.
Ogbeh said that at present, there were over 27 large rice mills and over 5,000 small rice mills across the country, processing rice to international standards so as to boost improved local production.
He listed some of the states that were involved in rice production as Kano State, Kebbi, Ebonyi, Anambra, and Nasarawa State, among others.
Besides, the minister quoted the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) as saying that Nigeria was currently the largest producer of maize in Africa, producing 10 million tonnes.
He said that the country was the foremost yam producer, the second in sorghum production, the third in millet production and the fourth in cashew nut production in Africa.
On the country’s export earnings, the minister noted that the country earned 700 million dollars from cashew nuts sales in the first quarter of 2018.
Ogbeh said that agricultural exports from Tin Can Island Port, Lagos, had risen by 180 per cent in the last two years.
“We are also leaders in cassava production but we are not doing well enough in cassava processing and value addition,’’ he said.
He said that the Federal Government was working tirelessly to free the nation from the anxieties of hunger and food insecurity.