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Coscharis Rice, others may end rice import next year –Ogbeh

Though average Nigerian is apparently confused on the back-and-front promises of the federal government in flooding local rise across the nation’s markets, there are nation-wide signals that the current foreign exchange pressure on the country would come to an end before the end of 2017 when the governments’ investments in agriculture and other productive ventures begin to yield fruits.

This was the key message of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who spoke at assessment tour of Coscharis Rice Farm in Anaku, in the Ayemelum Local Government of Anambra state.

He revealed that currently, Nigeria spends over $3billion on food import annually, stressing that this was unacceptable for a country with huge potential to produce food.

According to him “When we go round the country, we began to have great confidence in our rich endowments and I think Nigeria’s independence is just beginning to be established because unless a country can feed itself and feed well, every other dream can’t be fulfilled.”

The minister said he was amazed to see how much investments the Coscharis Group has made on rice farming in just two years, stressing that by replicating such ventures across 26 states with potential to produce rice Nigeria would save so much in foreign currency.

“I have seen similar things in Kebbi and I am seeing this big one, I am very proud of Coscharis and the effort the governor of Anambra state is making to support him. In another year, we will have no need to import one grain of rice into this country. In fact we may stop rice importation sooner than that. It is final word I am telling you, because Nigerians have proven that they can do it and I am proud that I can see this thing in Anambra. Because people who don’t know Anambra do not even know what potential sexist for agriculture I am also proud of the role the CBN is playing because they are giving a lot of credit support, even allocating the scarce foreign exchange that we have to a critical sector like agriculture.”

He told the younger generation of Nigerians that there is future in agriculture, urging them not to run away from it even though it is tough, the nation has to feed itself.

He said Nigeria would be exporting 500 million metric tonnes in 34 years time going by the level of both private and public investments in rice farming nationwide.

In his remarks during the tour, the governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said the bank was spurred to support agriculture because the country ran into a situation where it’s reserves had been badly depleted, largely due to massive importation of rice when indeed it can grow rice.

Emefiele decried the scenarios saying, “ we import tomatoes, when we can grow tomatoes, we are importing milk, when we can grow diary. We have people and companies in Nigeria that can take up the initiative, but we have been importing milk for over 60 years. There is a company that has been producing milk for 60 years, and I say it is time those kind of companies begin to produce our diary in Nigeria.

Emefiele said the apex bank would continue  to encourage investors like the Coscharis Group because of their commitment in the business, revealing that “We started this with him, almost about two years ago when we granted him a N2 billion Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS).

Findings at the apex bank also show that another beneficiary of the largesse was Erisco Foods who majored in tomato paste manufacturing in Lagos.

Governor Willy Obiano of Anambra state in his response stressed that “We are hoping to catch up with Kebbi. We are currently doing 210,000 metric tonnes. We call on CBN to support Coscharis Farms and other small holder farms because they are structured here. Through the agro-intervention funds we got N1.5 million and disbursed it and now we want N5 billion. There is much money in farming- you feed yourself and sell others”.

Only few months ago, news making the rounds say in no distant time Anambra rice and Eko Rice will flood the market but Nigerians are yet to see things for themselves.

Besides, there are indications that even in Ebonyi State, the famous Abakaliki Rice is facing extinction as supports from CBN is nowhere to be found, thus forcing the farmers to divest to Cassava farming.