Indications have emerged that going by the quantum of private sector and states governments’ investments in rice farming; next harvesting season of rice which is November will see huge harvest and possible saturation of the market. States where rice is highly expected from by November include Kebbi who is partnersing with Lagos State to produce Eko Rice, Anambra coming with Anambra Rice, Ebonyi also coming with improved Abakaliki, Niger State, Kogi and Benue states.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh revealed in Abuja that the delay in the approval of the 2016 budget made it impossible to implement the capital expenditure in the agricultural sector which would have fast-tracked rice farming.
Addressing members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development at the headquarters of the ministry in Abuja during a visit yesterday, he added that “government could not be involved in the importation of rice as speculated in some quarters, stressed that his ministry would not encourage rice importation because it would be detrimental to local production”.
He told the lawmakers that “We will not encourage rice importation and there is no way our ministry or government can be involved in importing rice when we are working hard to be self-sufficient in local production. By November when the full-scale harvest starts, rice prices will fall,” the minister said.
According to him, the ministry inherited N67bn debt when the present administration came on board, but added that N20bn had been paid to agro-dealers and distributed 900 million oil palm seedlings to farmers across the country.
He said the ministry had spent just N882.58m, representing four per cent of the N21bn budgeted for it in the 2016 Appropriation Act, stressing that “It is about now that the capital expenditure is beginning. One of the reasons why money is not circulating is that we need to follow the due process on issues of procurement, advertisement and others.
He regretted that “only six to seven states in Nigeria are showing enthusiasm in agriculture. Some by nature don’t seem interested, while others just can’t connect with whatever we are doing at the federal level.”
It would be recalled that the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, had said that the $22bn annual food import bill had led to the astronomical rise in the price of rice and other commodities.
Currently, rice price hovers around N20,000 in Lagos and over N27,000 in states that are distant from coastal borders or land borders.