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By November, Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice production – Audu Ogbeh

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has
said that the country will be self-sufficient in rice production by
November, which he said will force a reduction in the price of the
commodity.

He frowned at what he called the people’s unbridled penchant and
taste for foreign foods, most of which, he said, were not as healthy and
nutritious as those produced locally.
The minister bared his mind while addressing a town hall meeting on
sustainable agriculture, which was attended by farmers, youths, women
and other stakeholders in agriculture, held at the Oyo State
Secretariat, Ibadan, on Tuesday.

The dialogue, which featured question and answer session, was hosted
by the Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, and the Commissioner for
Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development, Prince Oyewole
Oyewumi.

The meeting, which was called to chart a new path for agriculture
rebirth, climaxed a two-day working visit by the minister to
agricultural facilities, including farms, dams, farm settlements and
others across the state.
He lamented what he called the culture of wastages and abandonment in
the country, which, he said, accounted for decaying facilities and
monuments dotting the landscape.

Ogbeh said, “By November we will be self sufficient in rice
production. We will no longer need to import rice. And let me tell you,
our rice is safer, tastier and healthier than the foreign ones.

“Patronize our farmers, eat healthy. Eat Nigerian rice. Another
cheering news is that we will soon bring down the price of rice.
Nigerians should embrace local products and stop importation of useless
things.
“We are a country that has penchant for importation without exporting
anything. In fact, some people will even order for pizza from London
for delivery by British Airways. They will tell you London pizza tastes
better.

“We import champagnes, cookies, toilet papers and even toothpicks. We
have this taste for foreign products. This is killing us, it is killing
our economy.”

The minister, who disclosed that Oyo State topped the list of cashew
producers in the country, said that a cashew processing plant would be
established in the state within the next six months.

While urging the governor to prevail on land owners to surrender them
for agricultural purposes, he said that the FG was prepared to join
hands with the state government on its agric revolution.

He expressed regret that over dependence of the country on accruals
from oil production had robbed it of the development of other sectors,
especially agriculture, which he said was once the nation’s cash cow.
Ogbeh said, “For instance, I was almost in tears when I got to Ikere
Gorge Dam yesterday (Monday) and saw the magnitude of waste and what
Nigeria is losing from its abandonment since 1982. It is pathetic. This
dam has the capacity to irrigate 12,000 hectares of farm land.

“I remember that we visited the dam in 1982 and brought the required
turbines to complete the project. I almost wept when I met the turbines
lying fallow at the dam without being fixed.

“This was a dam that has capacity to generate at least seven
megawatts of electricity. Ikere is just one of the 22 dams in Oyo State,
which is the second highest in Nigeria next to Kano that has 23 dams.

“We fought the civil war with revenue from agriculture, with at least
$1m (today’s N367m) per day. The money came from cocoa, groundnut, soya
beans and the rest. But today, the disappearance of oil money has
exposed our nakedness.”

In his remarks, Ajimobi commended the FG for its commitment to the
survival of the country through initiatives such as the latest
agriculture renaissance.

The governor recalled that many monuments located in Ibadan, which
were mostly the first of their kind in Africa, such as the Liberty
Stadium, Cocoa House, University of Ibadan, the Nigerian Television
Authority and others were built with proceeds from agriculture.

He appealed to the people to change their mentality that are inimical
to the growth of agriculture, which he said was paramount to the
economic survival of the country.

Ajimobi said, “I don’t know why we are shunning agriculture. I want
to put it on record here that I’m also a farmer, because the country’s
law did not forbid the president, governors and other political office
holders from going into farming.

“Oyo must become the food basket of the nation. No agric, no food and
when there is no food, there is no life and no living, no nation. To
survive and live well you must make money. The money is in agriculture.

“The FG is now providing many incentives for the people to embrace
agriculture. We need to start thinking of the future today. Let us think
of agriculture today for our survival. Let us all work. Let us all do
agriculture.

“The highest employer of labour in an underdeveloped country like
Nigeria is agriculture. We are underdeveloped because any nation that
cannot feed its people is underdeveloped.”

Ajimobi restated the preparedness of the state to partner the FG to
complement its agric projects aimed at enhancing food sufficiency in the
country.

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