Nigeria’s agricultural exports to other countries increased by 77 per cent in 2018 due to intensified efforts at diversifying the economy, according the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh.
He said this at the “2019 NAPRI Open Day” organised by the National Animal Production Research Institute held in the institute at Shika, Zaria, Kaduna State.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the open day is meant for display of agricultural technologies and commissioning of different projects executed by the Director, NAPRI, Prof. Clarence Ayodele-Lakpini.
He said: “When we came in, President Muhammadu Buhari said we must diversify the economy and the best diversification is agriculture.
“We cannot afford to spend money on things we cant produce, I think at the end of President Buhari’s tenure, we have a course to rejoice and I will tell you why.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria informed us that in the last four years, we have cut down food import by 21 billion dollars and we have also increased agricultural export in 2018 alone by 77 per cent.
“We have engaged 13 million Nigerians in rice farming and nearly 4 million Nigerians into rice processing; yet, we haven’t started because we have 200 million people to feed.”
Ogbeh observed that unless and until food problem was addressed, no other problem could be solved because there was no machine that needed regular maintenance and service as the stomach.
He said: “That’s why we do service it three times a day, if we can afford it, if we don’t, the stomach sends bad signals to the head and the head misbehaves.
“That’s why you hear of crimes and criminology such as kidnapping, armed robbery and all kinds of wild behaviour which had become a threat to our existence.”
The minister announced that President Buhari had approved “Ruga Settlement” for herders, assuring that government would build settlements where the herders would live, grow their cattle and produce more meat and milk”.
He said: “Your wives don’t have to carry nono (yoghourt) on their heads, moving around and they won’t be abused by any man; that’s a serious matter, we know what is going on, we don’t want any conflict between you and the farmers.”
Ogbeh assured that the settlement would be given adequate protection from bandits, adding that the Ministry of Interior was already training the security personnel solely for such purpose.
He restated the commitment of the Federal Government to assist NAPRI to enhance the development and production of Shika Brown Chickens, adding that it was the biggest achievement in Nigerian agriculture.
He, however, said that unfortunately it wasn’t supported the way it should to effectively maximise the benefits therein, adding that government would support the collaboration between the institute and Danish firm to boost milk production.
The Vice-Chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Ibrahim Garba, lauded the Federal Government for assisting ABU and NAPRI in particular, which led to its transformation.
The Director, NAPRI, Prof. Clarence Ayodele-Lakpini, commended the minister for his intervention that culminated into the celebration.
He said in 2018, the ministry conceded to the institute’s request and a number of agricultural equipment and tractors were sold to it at highly subsidised rate.
Ayodele-Lakpini identified those equipment to include 20 Knapsack sprayers, five 2Hp water pumps, five 3Hp water pumps, two solar irrigation pumps, 10 Drip irrigation kits and 100 Irrigation Sprinkler Heads.
Others are four Motorised Sprayers, five Power Tillers, three Multi-purpose Threshers, three Agric Waste Milling Machines and aone other equipment, M 375/75HP.
He said the institute, in early 2019, began to receive direct intervention from the ministry in some projects that included renovation of small ruminants experimental unit, sheep and goat pens in Shika, Zaria.
Others, according to him, are sinking of two boreholes in experimental unit and sheep project in Shika, renovation of pig houses in Otukpo outstation, Benue, construction/installation of irrigation facilities and solar-powered boreholes for pasture and seed production.