Naija Foodie Update

Foodie Naija Update (Government Must Implement Policies That Will Drive The Agric Sector)

Mr. Tunji Owoeye is the group managing director of Elephant
Group Africa, and also the president of Rice Millers Association of Nigeria. In this
interview with OLUSHOLA BELLO,
he advised the federal government to embark on the
implementation of policies and
provision of incentives that will
drive self-sufficiency and food security.

As a stakeholder in the rice industry, what is your take on
the policies governing the
sector? First of all I have to call on the
minister for Agriculture and Rural
Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh,
on the implementation of various initiatives and policies aimed at
driving the nation’s agricultural sector, particularly rice sector to achieve self-sufficiency of the
commodity.

Without this, it will
be very difficult and almost impossible to achieve self-reliance and food security for the country in general. The country’s
agricultural sector has suffered a lot of setbacks in the past
decades, as a result of poor policy implementation, lack of infrastructure as well as it being
mirred in fraud.

How do you see the issue of funding and access to credit
facilities in the sector?
The government should step up
access to credit for the value chain operators in the rice
industry; it is of paramount necessity to improve the capacity of the Nigeria Incentive Based Risk Sharing System for
Agricultural Lending (NISRAL) and also build more storage facilities to guard against food-rot,
wastages and food insecurity which is currently rocking the
nation.

There is also the need for government to increase the
provision of processing facilities
for all products in the country.
For the above to be actualized, the 10 rice mills approved by the
previous administration must
come on stream to boost the processing of rice paddy in the
country. There should be continuity when there is a good
policy.

What’s your take on continuity of
existing projects and policies?
We want government to continue with what they did in
the past, to continue working with stakeholders and together we believe 2016 will be a
successful year for the country.
We want government to step-up the access to credit for the value
chain operators, improve the capacity of NISRAL to take on
insurance and risks much more to support the teeming value chain operators across all the products, agribusiness must be
technologically driven as it is done in the Western World.

It must be attended to with utmost
seriousness and as a matter of urgency. However, 10 rice mills were approved by the Federal
Executive Council (FEC) of the previous administration. We
must ensure that those mills come on stream. If we put those 10 mills on stream with the
capacity of 35,000 metric tones per annum, that is about
350,000 metric tonnes added to
the nation’s paddy processing capacity, and it will be a great
boost to the national GDP.

Moreover, this will be a great encouragement to our farmers, creating employment and also
bringing down the pressure on the foreign exchange. This should not only be done for rice
but for all products.
As the president of Rice Millers
Association of Nigeria, what are
doing towards reducing smuggling of rice into the
country?
I will commend the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in its
tireless efforts in combating the
smuggling of rice into the country, by ensuring that
smugglers pay duties rather than go unchallenged.

This move by the current Comptroller-general, has helped reduce the menace of
smugglers, and this is a welcome
development. We have started engaging the new government to ensure that smuggling is
minimised and reduced to the barest minimum, and we are also happy about the appointment of
the new Comptroller-general in his effort to ensure that
smuggling is tackled.

Instead of smugglers bringing in rice
unchallenged, he got them to pay duties, but we have seen that smugglers have taken advantage of that policy by circumventing the policy, but I am happy to announce to you that the customs is addressing this
challenge and I am sure before the next quarter, we would look back on the progress we have
made.

What other things do you think should be put in place to ensure
the growth of the industry?
As a matter of fact, there is the need to provide a market outlet for locally produced goods, as a
group we are willing and have also expressed our desire to work with the current minister
to lend support in creating additional market outlets and
marketing.

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