Naija Foodie Update

Foodie Naija Update (‘Increase Food Production 100% Or Risk Hunger’)

With an agenda to ensure a hunger free nation, the federal
government has urged Nigerians to increase food
production by 100% in order to meet the needs of citizens or risk hunger when the
population increases, writes Ruth Tene Natsa.

With increasing population comes an increasing demand for food, a basic human need which
cannot be substituted with any other thing, but unfortunately
while the demand for food continues to increase its
production is still tottering as a result of varying challenges
ranging from poor access to land, lack of access to agriculture
machinery, poor access to loan
facilities, youth drudgery, and even the unavoidable effect of global warming and climate
change.

All these and more continue to beset the development of the
nation’s agriculture even as the federal government has stressed the need to increase food
production by 100% or risk hunger in the near future as the nation’s population increases in a call which is sine qua non to ending food importation and
increasing local production to meet the food demands of the Nigerian people.

The minister of agriculture and
rural development, Chief Audu Ogbe, who made the call said
that agriculture will no longer be a one season event but an all year round activity which would include both wet and dry season farming.

He said, “If we continue looking at agriculture as a rainy season event we would go hungry. While Nigeria can manage its food
production if it were to feed itself, it is no longer realistic as
neighbouring countries, through
porous borders, also depend on Nigeria for their food needs.”

He revealed that the present government was determined to
return Nigeria to where it was in the 1960s as an agriculture
producing nation which depended on local production
rather than the sorry state the nation finds itself today where it
depends on food imports, translating to high imports bills.

The minister lamented that using
over N20 billion annually in importing food was not reasonable and stressed the need for all Nigerians to rise to the challenge of producing its food needs.

Ogbe revealed that Nigeria has 5% of the world’s population within its borders,
making it the third most populated country in the world
with its over 160 million population, and added that the
population which would grow to 200 million people by the year 2020 could be an asset if Nigerians decide to go into food production.

He warned, however,
it could also become a challenge if food production is neglected, and stressed the need for states to partner with the federal
government towards increasing food production at the state and ultimately at the rural level.

“Let’s try seriously and reduce poverty at the rural level to curtail the rural urban drift,” he said.
On irrigation, Ogbe maintained that while the North West was leading in irrigation service,
making it possible for all year farming activities, other
geopolitical zones were not doing so well, thus the need for state governments to partner the federal governments towards boosting agriculture at the rural level.

The minister who made the call during a media briefing with
journalist in Abuja, said that as a means to meeting the nation’s high demand for food, the Ministry of Agriculture was set to launch the second phase of its agro mechanisation programme in Ilorin, and the sector in the
next five years needs a minimum of one million tractors to support farmers in their endeavours.

Ogbe also said that the ministry was targeting clearing more lands and threshers as well as
embarking on quality control and
certification of crops towards curbing the embarrassment of
the rejection of Nigerian produce
in the international market.

In addition, he stressed the need to
collaborate with the Ministry of Water Resources which builds dams for the needs of agriculture
and added that the present government was also lobbying
banks to again look at the interest rates as paying back loans at an average of 18-25 interest was not realistic for farmers.

“If the interest rate is not reduced we would continue to
have challenges in agriculture,” he said.

He assured that the government was not only expecting to benefit from the programmes of the
Africa Development Bank (AfDB) from other agricultural support agencies towards ensuring
support for the development of
agriculture programmes.

He said that agro-industrial parks are
also in the works and assured that such parks will be viable
platforms for employment
generation and curbing rural
urban migration.

The minister further lamented a situation
where there was one extension worker to every 10,000 farmers
and stressed the need to increase the nation’s extension service

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