Hon. Minister Audu Ogbeh Visits India for new partnerships On Agric Development in Nigeria

The Hon. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has concluded a one week working visit to India to explore new partnerships on agricultural development between Nigeria and India.

 

Hon. Minister, Audu Ogbeh with Indian Minister of Agriculture, Radha Mohan Singh in New Delhi

Hon. Minister, Audu Ogbeh with Indian Minister of Agriculture, Radha Mohan Singh in New Delhi

 

The Minister was received by the Indian Minister of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, His Excellency, Radha Mohan Singh; the Nigerian High Commissioner to India – Amb. Chris Eze; and some Agribusiness investors in New Delhi.

 

Receiving the delegation, the Indian Agriculture Minister, Mohan Singh described Nigeria as India’s largest trading partner in Africa and disclosed that in 2015, India had announced concessional loans of $10 billion to African countries.

 

He added that recently, India increased training slots under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation – ITEC Programme covering short-term training programmes in agriculture and allied sectors from 200 slots to 310 slots annually to Nigeria.

 

Hon. Minister, Audu Ogbeh described India’s resilience in developing its agricultural sector especially the giant strides recorded in its dairy sector as an inspiration to Nigeria, adding that If India could do it, Nigeria can do it too.

 

The Hon. Minister was also received at Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation, which has for decades driven the development of India’s dairy sector, using latest techniques of animal husbandry to empower 3.5million dairy farmers in 18,000 villages through the Amul milk brand. He was later taken on a guided tour of Amul Milk Factory, India’s largest dairy production factory and Asia’s largest milk producer.

 

Chief Ogbeh also undertook a tour of the Gujarat Industrial Development Area where he looked at technology transfer in small-scale processing machines designed for smallholder farmers such as semi-automated cashew shelling machines.

 

Hon. Minister’s tour of Gujarat Industrial Dev Area of small scale cashew projects and India’s largest milk processing factory is part of an understudy of India’s Agric co-operative models ahead of the implementation of the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprise – LIFE programme, which aims to empower rural youth and women in Nigeria.

 

In Calcutta, Chief Ogbeh held a meeting with the Jute Mills Association of India to discuss collaborations for Nigeria’s large scale cultivation of Jute and Kenaf; and the adoption of jute bags for packaging agricultural produce in line with food safety standards and global best practices.

 

Speaking at the meeting, the Minister declared that Nigeria is open for Agribusiness, with incentives for investors, noting that with Nigeria’s increased production in grains; the country will be requiring massive packaging and therefore invited the Indian Jute Mills to seize the huge opportunity in the Nigerian market; and invest in jute bag manufacturing in Nigeria.

 

The Minister emphasized that non-biodegradable packaging material such as polypropylene is not safe for our food and the environment, advocating the use of jute packaging which are carbon neutral and biodegradable.

 

Also in Calcutta, the Hon. Minister visited Wellington Jute Mill, the first Jute mill in Asia established by James Finlay & Co in 1873 and now owned by Ai Champdany Industries Ltd. At full capacity, the mill produces 120 Metric tons per day and employs 3,000 workers. The Minister described the age-long expertise  of the factory as an invaluable experience from which Nigeria can learn and gain a lot.

 

A delegation of the National Seeds Corporation of India also held a meeting with Hon. Minister in New Delhi as he wrapped up his official visit to India. Partnering with Nigeria’s National Seeds Council to developed improved seed varieties for increased agricultural productivity was top on the agenda.

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Minister of Agriculture Visits The Livestock Institute & School of Pest Control, Kaduna

The Hon. Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh was at the Institute of Livestock and the School of Pest Control in Kaduna on Thursday for a first-hand assessment of facilities and operations at the two institutions.

The Hon. Minister embarked on a guided tour of the pest control laboratories, livestock workshops and Agricultural equipment warehouses, some of which are in a state of disrepair.

The warehouse containing the stock of new Rice Mills recently procured to boost rice milling capacity nationwide, was also inspected by the Hon. Minister.

Speaking after the inspection, Chief Ogbeh said: “We will do our best to lift up the standard of these institutes, to help you all put in your best and to enable you serve the purposes for which these institutions were set up”.

The Minister was accompanied on the field visit by the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Bukar Hassan; Director, Federal Department of Agriculture – Dr. Amin Babandi; Director, General Services – Mall. Isa Musa; Director of Procurement – Mall. Ibrahim Badeiri and other senior officials of the Ministry.

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Agriculture Minister, Ogbeh Inaugurates Project Coordination Unit for Effective Projcets Implementation

The Hon. Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh today inaugurated the Project Coordination Unit – PCU of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for effective implementation of Development partner funded projects.

The PCU headed by Dr. Aisha Mohammed-Ndayako is to coordinate & supervise all development partner funded projects & support programmes; review oncoming projects and ensure alignment with the APP and ERGP; review recently closed projects, prepare and negotiate pipeline projects; participate in the supervisory missions of projects; perform any function relating to development partners in the ministry and to perform duties assigned by the Permanent Secretary.

Speaking, the Permanent Secreatary – Dr Bukar Hassan to whom the PCU reports, said the unit will enhance accountability and effective management of development Partner funded projects.

The Hon. Minister, Chief Ogbhe charged the PCU members drawn from key departments of the ministry, to utilize their expertise and help reduce project costs and maximize results.

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Nigeria Must Mainstream Food Safety In Its Agricultural Production – Minister Of Agriculture

I thank the Governing Council of this University, its principal officers and esteemed staff for granting me the honour of delivering the 23rd, 24th and 25th combined convocation lecture of this revered institution.

I share in your vision and passion to be a centre of excellence in knowledge generation for global development and the sustenance of an economically friendly society.

 

I have deliberately chosen the topic of this lecture as ‘Food and the Future’ because of the significance of food to the continued well–being of human society.

As the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, my core business is agriculture and food security, especially at a very critical moment in our history when the agricultural sector is being revitalized under the Buhari Administration.

The renewed emphasis on the transformation of the agricultural sector, by this Administration, is to ensure that the sector becomes the new engine of growth for a vibrant, resilient and productive national economy.

But our business here today is to reflect on ‘food and our future’.

The Importance of Food

I do not have to stress the important roles food and eating play in our lives, as they are evident in a rich variety of ingredients, food forms, shapes, tastes and colours all over the universe. However, we often gloss over the business of food, with serious consequences.

Nonetheless, food is basic to human existence, irrespective of social or educational status, religious persuasions, race or gender. Survival is impossible without food. A sad reality, however, is that in spite of the fact that all human societies have been divinely endowed with the ability to produce all the varieties of food required for human sustenance, hunger is still a recurring decimal, and an on-going global phenomenon.

Hunger is real. The causes are diverse and complex. Yet, it occurs where increasing knowledge about food and the abundance of food are widely spread to individuals and places where scarcity and inadequacy are prevalent. Failure to know what to eat, what not to eat, how to eat and the right mix of what to eat at all times arise out of a wide variety of causes. The global inequalities in wealth, economy, politics and industrial development account for some of the causes. But tackling hunger remains an on-going task that must be done.

The demand and supply aspects of food have underscored the need for evidence-based interventions at various levels, and in various forms as the food industry increasingly crystallizes as an all-embracing sub-sector of the global economy. Increasingly, therefore, agricultural systems, land use systems, natural, social and economic environments are receiving greater attention under combined efforts to meet human needs for sustainable supply of food for both human and animal consumption.

Global Hunger Profile

Estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) between 2014 -2016 indicated that about 795 million people are hungry in a global population of about 7.3 billion people. Expectedly, 780 million people (98.1%) of the hungry people live in developing countries, including Nigeria, a rather sad situation reflecting the deplorable condition of human wellbeing in these countries.

The World Food Programme has also provided some disheartening statistics about famine worldwide, with about 805 million people not having adequate nutrition. The highest percentage of undernourished populations, regretfully, is also in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Perhaps more worrisome is the manifestation of hunger in children, attested to in fetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vital micronutrients –vitamins and minerals-including iron, vitamin A, iodine. The consequence is that poor nutrition has caused nearly half the deaths in children under five (5) years old. In addition, about 66 million schoolchildren across the world are also hungry.

Food Situation in Nigeria

In the case of Nigeria, the World Food Programme (2016) has provided some interesting details about the food situation in the country, which are instructive, including:

– the reality that we are a food deficit nation, and Africa’s largest importer of rice (until recently with the remarkable progress we have made to curb rice importation through local production);
– that one third of children under five years in the Country are stunted- twice the rate in Thailand and thrice the rate in Tunisia;
– a disturbing incidence of increased rates of both child and adult obesity; and
– that 48.5% of our women of reproductive age are anemic.

By the UN’s projection, the current dietary consumption patterns will continue on the same rising population trajectory. Feeding the more than 9 billion projected world population by 2050 will, therefore, entail producing more food in the next 40 years. This is even more compelling for Nigeria given the fact that the UN has projected that we will be the third most populated country in the world by 2050. These present clear lines of opportunities for us hence the need to start taking adequate measures in the short, medium and long terms to feed the explosion of population which is already in our hands and the thunderbolt which we are anticipating especially from year 2040 through year 2050.

And so what are the measures that we have either put in place or will be putting in place to ensure food security for Nigerians now, and into the future?

Current Measures Towards Promoting Food Security in Nigeria

The first major step is the promotion of a culture of eating what we grow and growing what we eat. As aforesaid, nature in its wisdom has ensured that the best foods for our daily needs are clearly within our reach in our respective communities along all the agricultural belts in Nigeria. Indeed, they are with us-they have been grown over the years by our forebears, and through research, they can be produced with improved varieties, for higher yields, and with less stressful methods of cultivation. But what did we witness in the past? It was an addiction to foreign taste and food produced in other climes.

This is why we need to be grateful to God for the dollar scarcity in the economy which has made it practically impossible to continue with this culture of unbridled waste, and invariably exporting wealth and jobs to other nations while importing poverty into the Country. And, evidently, one of the benefits of the economic downturn in Nigeria is the recognition that we need to go back to the drawing board by growing what we eat and eating what we grow. We have the population that can thus be turned to an asset as a vibrant market for food.

Indeed, in our state of delusion in the past, we got so addicted to imported rice and wheat that a considerable number in our midst did not think they could be grown successfully in Nigeria. We have proved doubting Thomases wrong, however, with the remarkable success of our home-grown initiatives aimed at boosting rice production in the Country. It is consoling that even those who were permanently addicted to the consumption of foreign rice and wheat-based products are now patronizing our local rice and wheat, in recognition that they are more nutritious and safer for their health. The flour millers have embraced locally-grown wheat, and are now discussing with the wheat farmers on increased production and agreeable prices.

The second major step is a new policy direction for the agricultural sector, as outlined in the ‘Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) 2016-2020- also known as the ‘Green Alternative”. Through the instrumentality of this policy document, we have consolidated on the successes of the agricultural programmes of past administrations in Nigeria without necessarily embarking on policy somersaults or reversals.

We have enriched the process through the introduction of new initiatives including the agro export zero reject programme; emplacement of improved process of fertilizer usage, entailing matching of the right fertilizer with the right soil types, commencement of a cattle breed improvement programme; expanding the nationwide coverage of extension, and bringing back the three Federal Universities of Agriculture to the domain of agriculture, being the constituency to which they naturally belong in the first instance, and in which they were situated by the enabling law.

With the three Universities of Agriculture effectively under the oversight authority of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMARD), we are confident that through their teaching, research, extension and innovation activities, the agricultural sector will be adequately supported in resolving the challenges of food insecurity in Nigeria, and meaningfully addressing the slow pace of agricultural development in the Country.

The APP/Green Alternative has effectively been incorporated into the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020). In order to ensure focus, clarity and impact, the plethora of activities within the agricultural sector within the mandate of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture have now been streamlined and consolidated into ten distinct areas. They are as follows: (i) comprehensive livestock development, (ii) input access and transformation, (iii) expanded access to financial markets, (iv) value addition and processing support and (v) agricultural water management. Other areas are (vi) agricultural education, research and innovation, (vii) agricultural manpower development, (viii) produce& commodity storage systems,(ix) commercial agriculture expansion support and (x) nutrition, quality control and standardization. The ten areas will henceforth constitute the priority areas of intervention and sustained support by Government in the agricultural sector in the coming years.

Through the Agricultural Sector Food Security and nutrition Strategy (2016-2025), we are also taking necessary steps to address the whole gamut of food –related issues. The strategy focuses on eight priority areas namely: (i) enhancing value chains for improved nutrition, (ii) diversifying household food production and consumption, with emphasis on women and increasing access to micronutrient rich foods , (iii) improving food safety along the value chain, (iv) building resilience and social protection nets through food nutrition systems for vulnerable groups, (v) promoting nutrition research and information systems, (vi) improving the agricultural capacity to address food security and nutrition problems, (vii)nutrition education, social marketing, behaviour change communication and advocacy and (viii) nutrition surveillance and monitoring and evaluation.

Of particular importance is the need to improve food availability, access, utilization and stability in the Country, bearing in mind that the 38kcal/person/day food energy deficit in the country needs to be reversed. For example, as outlined in the Strategy, the insufficiency of dietary availability of iron from animal sources at 1mgper person per day in Nigeria relative to the 2.9mg globally; and consumption of quality protein at 35g per person per day relative to 68.6g globally are alarming to us.

Most often, available foods are also not affordable to a significant number of the national population while nearly 60% of the income of households is expended on food, and even those in the lowest rung of the social and economic ladder spend more than 75% of their incomes on food.

Inadequate processing and storage facilities are troubling issues too because of their impact on prices and affordability. Prolonged crisis, especially in the northern eastern part, and other parts of the Country that have experienced incessant clashes of herdsmen and farmers, is also an issue of concern. The good news is that this Administration is addressing these issues with a view to effectively, satisfactorily and permanently resolving them.

While time will not permit me to elaborate on all the eight areas of the Food Safety and Nutrition Strategy, a few words on food safety will suffice. All along the food value chains are various hazards arising from indiscriminate use of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and veterinary medicines, among others. Poor agricultural practices have accounted for the rising incidents of biological contamination of foods with moulds, viruses, parasites, prions, bacteria, some of which have been associated with producing toxins like cancer aflatoxins. Drying in most places is undertaken on major roads on bare surfaces thus exposing food items to dust, lead from car exhaust and pest contamination, among others.

The food security and overall health of our people are, therefore being compromised, almost daily, hence the unhealthy situation food safety status of the country presently. The consequence is that we are witnessing increased incidents of liver cancer (about 7,761 cases) kidney failures, and other chronic diseases translating into a huge loss to the country, especially with the loss of lives therefrom . The Federal Ministry of Agriculture cannot deal with all these issues alone because they go beyond its jurisdictional authority. Accordingly, we are working with concerned key stakeholders in all spheres to put in place all necessary measures to ensure that the food we consume nourish our bodies rather than impair our health.

Combating diet related non-communicable diseases, which are also increasing phenomenally in Nigeria is also a topical concern in the food safety and nutrition strategy. They are manifested in cases such as high blood pressure, high fat content in the blood, high blood glucose levels, obesity, diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases. Given that increased access to fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other nutrient-dense foods can help stem the occurrence of these diseases in large numbers, we are focusing attention on producing them in greater numbers in the country. The emphasis is to ensure improved access and affordability, especially to vulnerable persons and those in the lowest rung of the social ladder in the society.

In view of the critical importance of nutrition to food security, we are committed to entrenching, into the system, an agricultural system that is closely linked with nutrition, hence nutrition-sensitive. To further underscore our commitment to this new paradigm , in my maiden address to Members of the Governing Councils of Federal Universities of Agriculture on 8th August, 2017, I had placed the Universities on notice regarding the importance of nutrition as a new area of study attracting worldwide scientific attention. It is informed by the new reality that ninety percent of human disabilities are reportedly traceable to what we eat or fail to eat.

Hippocrates, way back in 390BC, said ‘let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food’. That statement is valid today and we have no choice but to pay attention to this word of wisdom in order to drastically reduce our national health bill, arising from poor nutritional habits and raise the bar of the low life expectancy rate in the country presently.

Indeed, what we grow- the soil, the use of macro and micronutrients; how we harvest, store process, package and cook our meals have all become something worthy of deep academic investigation. This University, and other agriculture universities in the country, must take the lead in research in these areas with a view to coming up with enduring solutions to improve the quality of food we eat in the country and our health status. It is partly because of this that I had advocated that each of the Federal Universities of Agriculture should, as a matter of urgency, have in place a fully established and functional college of nutrition and medical sciences within the shortest possible time, where none currently exists, as part of its process of re-modeling as a centre of excellence.

In the area of livestock development which is integral to improving food access, the breed improvement programme is on-going with heifer and bull multiplication, institution of integrated disease and pest control measures, provision of support for processing of poultry meat and diary, increased livestock production and pasture and fodder development as well as establishment of cattle colonies and promotion of commercial ranching within existing grazing reserves in the country.

With fisheries, we are concentrating effort on intensifying the promotion and development of fisheries and aquaculture , including promoting a cage culture support for freshwater and marine water fish breed multiplication across the country. We recognize the need to utilize the available dams in the country for intensive fish production and collaborative fish breeding support. Accordingly, we are working in partnership with relevant institutions of Government at the federal and state levels. As a further measure of increasing our local capacity in fish production, we have drastically reduced the importation of fish and we are working towards achieving further reduction in the rate of importation in the years ahead. Indeed, we are confident that it is possible to achieve self-sufficiency in fish production in Nigeria, in no distant time, with increased investment in fish production, storage and processing in the coming years.

It is impossible to improve agricultural production and productivity if farmers do not have adequate access to certified/quality inputs. These include certified seeds, agro-chemicals, soil specific fertilizer blends, mechanization and extension services. In this regard, we are focusing attention on expanding the scope of the GES to include 5ha+ farmers, customizing fertilizer blends to local soils and propagating the use of high yield seeds at the Local government level. We are sure that we shall begin to see significant improvements in agricultural production and productivity once there is consistency of action in this direction in the coming years by all stakeholders.

It is also true that agriculture cannot thrive without expanded access to financial markets. In this connection, we are working hard to significantly reduce the cost of funds. We are advocating for the scaling up of the Anchor’s Borrowers’ Programme to the 36 States. We shall complete the recapitalization of the Bank of Industry (BOI), institute new agricultural finance programmes in partnership with the Central bank of Nigeria and advocate for the review and scaling up of NIRSAL and NAIC support.

In the realm of value addition, we are concentrating effort on expanding downstream value addition operations, research and propagation, supply chain domestication programme to support industry, as well as boosting business start-up support for youth and women among others. The staple crop-processing zone is also expected to come on stream in due course, as planned, which will be greatly increase the scope of processing of in the agricultural sector, in addition to attracting investors increased investment to the sector.

Boosting food supply also requires that agriculture is undertaken in both the dry and wet seasons. To this end, we are determined to relentlessly pursue the acceleration of irrigation projects in the country by expanding irrigable lands in the river basins in the country and deepening the use of irrigation by farmers by providing the enabling support to them. Undoubtedly, our dams across the country are grossly under-utilized, poorly maintained and need to be effectively harnessed, henceforth, for all year agricultural production and productivity. The silted rivers need to be dredged to reduce flooding tendencies and provide means for waterway transportation of agricultural produce from source to the markets.

Boosting food production and foreign exchange earnings through agro-exports also entail the promotion of foundation and breeder seeds development for high yield- early-maturing-drought and disease resistant varieties of the major crops grown across the country. They are cocoa, sugar cane , groundnut, palm oil, cashew cotton, ginger, sesame , gum arabic. Kenaf, shea butter, rubber ,mango, citrus, rice, wheat, maize, soya beans, tomatoes, yam, sorghum, cassava and cowpeas. We are intensifying efforts in this direction with a view to ensuring that we respond adequately to the demands of the local and foreign markets.

Our produce and commodity storage systems programme is being consolidated in order to help us to reduce post harvest losses and sustain the existing grain reserves management. We are also in the process of revitalizing the commodity exchange for improved inventory management and fast-tracking of exports. A case has also been made for the re-introduction of the marketing boards which we are exploring with a view to taking a final decision soon.

The re-establishment of the National Agricultural Land development Authority (NALDA) is a welcome development, bearing in mind the astronomical cost of land preparation/development, especially in the southern part of the Country. NALDA will also greatly enhance and facilitate our commercial agriculture programme, in addition to assisting us to triple the production of cassava, maize, rice, wheat, soya beans, potato and tomatoes, just to mention a few, as well as revive and scale up cashew, cocoa, palm oil, cotton, sugar cane banana, mango, pulses, coconut ,ginger and rubber plantations.

The promotion of crop specialization at the state level based on comparative advantage is expected to boost agricultural production in the country. We are committed to the achievement of sufficiency in our local staples . Already, we are almost achieving this target with rice. I believe with determination, we have no business importing any kind of food again that we can comfortably grow in Nigeria. Indeed, there is no need for such indulgence again, which has always drained us economically and multiplied poverty in our land.

The Role of Federal Universities of Agriculture

The Universities of Agriculture (UAs) should probably be our most important partner in the agricultural sector. The agricultural sector cannot thrive without knowledge- therefore the specialized universities of agriculture were specifically established as the knowledge centres of this sector.

Until the recent policy change, however, the institutional structure and functions of the UAs show a marked departure from both the norm in implementing
the concept of UAs in other parts of the world, and also from the provisions of the extant law, as highlighted below:

i. departure from the provisions of the original statute establishing the Universities – whereas these Universities, though established by law, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture through an Agricultural Universities Coordinating Agency (AUCA), were operating under the Ministry of Education since 1999 without regard to the law, using the instrumentality of supervision by the National Universities Commission (NUC) that have employed the same parameters as those applied for faculties of agriculture in conventional Universities;

ii. departure from the original academic structure – whereas the original academic briefs of the Universities of agriculture put emphasis on practical work of staff and students in terms of teaching, research and outreach, which are closely integrated in a multilateral activity structure (e.g. 70:30; 50: 30: 20; 70: 20: 10; etc.) and which permits sufficient mental mobility of professional staff between colleges and other organs, these Universities have since operated an academic structure not different from the conventional approach of the faculties in conventional universities;

iii. departure from the original programme structure: whereas the collegiate system adopted from inception for the universities of agriculture envisaged considerable administrative autonomy of colleges, these units are run in the same way as faculties with no such independence in programme implementation, and the attendant negative consequences for addressing the issues confronting the agricultural sector in real time as desired;

iv. departure from the philosophy, purpose and global best practices whereas the agricultural universities were expected to align their teaching, research community services with the policy focus and programme priorities of government in real time, and to have by now developed considerable capacity to address the emerging policy issues facing the agricultural sector, as done by such universities in advanced agricultural economies of the world. The agricultural universities in Nigeria are intellectually disconnected from the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and have failed to uphold this philosophy and contributed little or nothing to benefit the Ministry in finding solutions to such policy issues in order to jointly address them; or come up with enduring solutions to problems confronting farmers and preventing them from adopting innovations and operating their enterprises as a business.

I urge the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, and other sister institutions in Umudike and Makurdi to take advantage of their reintegration into the Ministry, and our agricultural agenda at large, and get enlisted as our reliable allies in the agricultural sector. Looking into the future, there are so many things the UAs can do to improve the food situation in the Country. For example, the vast portions of arable land left to fallow for too long should now be harnessed for agricultural production, either singly or in collaboration with willing investors and other stakeholders.

We are living witnesses to the fact that our universities in Ibadan, Zaria, Ife and Nsukka, for example were every active in the past in providing food for their immediate communities. There is no reason why this university (Abeokuta) cannot provide a substantial part of the food requirements of the people of Ogun, Lagos and Oyo States. By doing this , you will not only be promoting access to food in Nigeria but also enhancing your internal revenue generation capacity in the face of dwindling fund allocation from Government.

Another area which you can play a significant role is in seeds and seedlings improvement. Nigerian agriculture will thrive better with improved seeds in all crop areas. There are early maturing new varieties of cocoa, kolanut, cashew and other crops which are being grown in other parts of the world through the research breakthroughs of agricultural institutions such as yours. The UAs need to get involved because we need breeders of exceptional pedigree in our universities to improve the fortunes of the agricultural sector in Nigeria.

Climate-related uncertainties manifesting as drought, floods, temperature fluctuation, crop and animal diseases increasingly pose what could become the greater challenges to agricultural production and food security. There are significant indications of climate-related problems already being recorded in many regions, particularly in sub-saharan Africa.

Global warming and unusual weather conditions like heavy rainfall are leading to new methods of distribution of vectors and diseases, with the emergence and persistence of new pathogens or the spread of pathogens to new areas. Growing demands for energy are adding further pressures on agricultural systems, both to supply traditional bio-energy and to supply industrial biofuels. The historic technological and policy focus on crop and livestock production for agriculture is no longer viable if agriculture is to thrive in this new environment of multiple pressures and demands. Agriculture can no longer simply focus only on the output of food production if it is to preserve the vital resources that will provide food in the long run. Your perspectives on how to respond to these emerging challenges are needed now.

We are concerned with mobilizing the youth for agriculture. The UAs are fertile grounds for the accomplishment of this objective. That is why I have directed that in moving forward, the UAs should review their curricula and grading system to give more weight to practical agriculture rather than mere theory. In this regard, henceforth every student is to own a farm or engage in any other form of agricultural activity within the respective sub-sectors and value chains.

By doing this, students can earn money while in school and they can eventually transform as farmers and agro-entrepreneurs once they are out of school. Once we are able to enlist our agricultural students to embrace practical agriculture in school, I am optimistic that this will serve as a source of inspiration to other students in our tertiary institutions and the youth population in Nigeria to embrace agriculture as a profitable venture.

I am mindful of the low enrolment figures for agriculture today in our UAs and the faculties of agriculture in the conventional universities in Nigeria. I urge you to provide us with insights regarding the incentives we need to put in place to boost student enrolment. Low as these enrolment figures are, they cannot provide justification for the observed deviation of UAs from their intended pathways to establish and grow the ancillary courses of instructions faster than the core mandate agricultural courses. Soon, Government will engage your governing councils and the senate in order to jointly address this and other structural issues arising from the departure of UAs from their mandate in different ways.

Research and innovation is a very wide area for which the expertise of the AUs is needed. Indeed, virtually every aspect of Nigerian agriculture is challenged, requiring new frontiers of knowledge to enable us make significant breakthroughs. I urge the UAs to place more emphasis on research and innovation and partner with the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), the National Agricultural Seeds Council (NASC) Agricultural Colleges and Research Institutes, in the Country, to take the agricultural sector to the next level. I urge you to commercialize your research breakthroughs and set up subsidiaries for providing market-driven innovative services which the agricultural sector urgently requires for its sustenance and rapid growth. Gone are the days when research breakthroughs should lie fallow on the shelf. They are needed in the field more than ever before now for the transformation of the agricultural sector.

The UAs can also do more in the area of extension. Indeed, the extension system is currently being re-calibrated to ensure inclusive participation by all stakeholders. The days of a wholly public sector-driven extension system are also gone for good. The UAs are in good stead to support the agricultural system by making the extension system more responsive, knowledge driven and impactful. You are, therefore, welcome to the new extension world of the agricultural sector as key players. In particular, the space for linking research with extension farmers and markets for inputs and outputs should be strengthened with the UAs playing a critical role in illuminating the policy and operational issues involved and in proffering solutions to address such issues.

Other areas where the UAs can effectively complement us include providing us with knowledge on more efficient utilization of resources, especially the continued interconnections between land and land-based resources and the challenge faced in balancing the multiple uses of land, water and energy and the resilience of the food system-including its vulnerability to disruptive hazards in supply chains and trade routes, as well as threats from disease, conflict and climatic shocks. Others include diet and sustainability-especially the changing trends in food consumption and what constitutes a healthy and sustainable diet appropriate in different cultural and environmental contexts, technological improvements and new innovations , including the effects on food production and consumption patterns and impacts on the sustainability , security , quality and affordability of food and agricultural and food trade policies in terms of their assessment and suggestions on the way forward.

I will not fail to mention that the place of harmony and peace in the University environment for the realization of your mandate. I, therefore, urge you to continue to support this Administration in its determined efforts to bring a new lease of life to the country.

We are determined to remodel the UAs as nodal centres of excellence. I assure our approach will be friendly and inclusive but we may not necessarily agree on all issues. I, therefore, seek your cooperation in ensuring that this University and the other two universities of agriculture are truly remodeled and focused as specialized institutions and legal entities for the advancement of agricultural education and training, as well as innovative and adaptive research in line with the vision of their founding fathers. We have set in motion the necessary machinery to achieve this goal. We shall not look back until we have reached the mark.

Closing Remarks

So what does the future portend for the agricultural sector in Nigeria? I see a bright future for the sector. I see us achieving national food sufficiency in record time. I see us eating in the right quantity and in the right mix. I see us producing food for export, and increasingly meeting the food requirements of other parts of the world, especially the west, central, eastern and northern sub-regions of Africa, and the European Union in the years ahead. I see our food industries flourishing and supporting us in wealth creation and employment generation. I even see our animals eating well and supplying us the nutrients that our bodies need for healthy living.

I see the next generation of billionaires in Nigeria emerging from the agricultural sector. I see healthier citizens, conscious of the need to eat well rather than eat anything that comes their way. I see prosperity along the agricultural value chains that takes us out of food inadequacy and poverty. I see agriculture replacing oil as the mainstay of our national economy. I see a Nigeria with zero tolerance for food importation, imbued with a national pride of growing and eating what is produced locally. I see a Nigeria where our huge population in 2010, as the third most populous nation in the world, becomes a source of our strength. That is, however, if we all walk the talk. It is a collective decision. The choice is ours.

I thank you for your kind attention.

yam-importation

PRESS RELEASE: Exporters Debunk Yam Export Rejection Stories

The exporters of yam to the UK and US have disputed the reports, initially aired by the Africa Independent Television (AIT) purporting that the yams exported after the official flag-off ceremony on June 29, 2017 were rejected at their export destinations.

The symbolic event, done at the Lilypond Container Terminal in Lagos by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, meant to boost the morale of Nigerian exporters and make a bold statement to the global marketplace, has drawn widespread criticisms on various media platforms based on the misleading reports.

The concerned exporters and other prospective exporters have expressed worries about the potential impact of the negative publicity on their prospects at the export market in the wake of federal government’s initiative on diversification of the economy through agricultural produce export.

Most commentators and analysts in the mainstream and social media have retailed the negative aspect of the laudable initiative and have played up the wrong versions of the export story. Discussions with the exporters have since shown the prevailing storyline as inappropriate and misleading.

First, the exporters to the UK and US have emphatically said that their consignments were successfully cleared at the ports and delivered them to their various warehouses. They said, although some cases of tuber spoilage were reported in both cases, these were separated from the good ones, and the good ones were distributed to the buyers. The exporters noted that Ghana, which has been exporting yams for a while, routinely records cases of spoilage, without making any public issues therefrom; and their yams don’t get rejected as a result.

Mr. Michael Adedipe of ADES UK Foods and Drinks for the UK, whose warehouse was visited by AIT, has deplored the AIT report and other subsequent commentaries about rejection of his yams by the UK authorities. Adedipe has said emphatically that the consignment was not rejected; “It was cleared.”

According to Adedipe, who confirmed that he spoke to AIT: “I’ve watched the (TV) programme which lasted for about two hours. All the positive stuff removed. We that decide to venture in this project are aware of the risks involved because, this fresh produce … we’ll expect five or 10 per cent damages. I don’t know why they said the product got rejected. I’ve sent my release note. I’ve sent video of loading. I’ve sent every documentation to say that there is no issue like that at all.”

On the spoilage of yam, Adedipe explained that “the failure has nothing to do with the ministry of agriculture, but the Nigerian Ports Authority. That’s where I see the failure.” He expressed disgust at the mishandling of his comments by the AIT reporter, saying: “I told him, he is aware of it. He knew about the delay, I told him about all the consignment. He knew every single thing that happened. But what he did the most is to use all the negative stuff. We talked about other things. I told him how I came into the UK to go and fix our problem. All those were removed from the report.”

Adedipe, who has vowed not to stop yam export business, disclosed that “the other mistake was the shipping line we used. But they were the ones that were available.” According to him, in spite of the sour experience with media report, “I’m willing to invest. I still expect…at least to take a container from Nigeria every week.”

Managing Director, Wan Nyikwagh Farms Nigeria Limited, Mr Yandev Amaabai, has strongly disputed the yam rejection story and said it doesn’t even tally. “The story from AIT was focused on UK. So far, I am the only person who has lifted yam to the US. Whatever we can do to clarify this issue will be good. We learn as we progress. The whole idea that government brought was to diversify the economy.”

“My goods actually got to the US on September 7, 2017. The ship berthed on September 2, 2017, but, because of the flooding in Texas, we couldn’t discharge until the 7th. They were cleared from the Customs and brought to the warehouse on the 7th. Yams are perishable items and, definitely, some may go bad on the way. But, this statement that says the American government rejected Nigerian yams, where does it come from?

Our yams were released to us and we took them to the stores. We sorted out our yams when they got there. We distributed them to the off-takers. So, where they got this story from, I don’t know. Nobody has ever called from anywhere, even in the US, to ask me question. If a few yams got rotten, and I am not complaining, why are people crying more than the owner? I have all the papers. The Customs cleared my goods on the other side. And these things went to my warehouse from where we distributed.”

If Ghana, which produces 4.8 million tonnes of yams, according to 2008 estimates, occupies a niche as the leading exporter of crop, accounting for over 94 per cent of total yam exports in West Africa, Nigeria which is by far the world’s largest producer of yams, accounting for over 70 to 76 per cent of the world production, producing 35.017 million metric tonnes valued equivalent of US$5.654 billion by the 2008 estimates should do better than Ghana in the export market

Ghana is the first country in West Africa to launch its national yam development strategy in 2013. The country aims at US$5billion dollars of exports by 2018. Nigeria, which produces seven times Ghana’s production volume, is beset with criticisms over attempts to bring it to the global yam markets. About 90 per cent of Ghana’s yams are exported to the US, Canada, UK and elsewhere in Europe. There are more Nigerians than Ghanaians in these countries, meaning more prospects for Nigerian exporters.

Chief Ogbeh has said that Nigeria, the largest producer of yam in the world, is not anywhere near the capacity to export and remains so much a nation of consumers. He stressed that “Nigeria must export” as the “country’s economy is increasing, and in ten years’ time, oil and gas is going to drop. Then we may have nothing to earn foreign exchange except we begin to diversify our export base now.”

With all these prospects in view, the Honourable Minister expressed surprise at the negative news trailing his laudable effort at putting Nigeria on the global yam export market, saying “we’re not going to stop because this is not enough to demoralise us. We have food to export. Never mind what so-called critics are doing.”

“In the ministry of agriculture,” he said, “we are not exporters. The ministry does not export. We’re going to talk to the port authority on cooling vans for vegetables and fresh produce so that exporters don’t lose money and we don’t lose face. We should begin to build cold trucks that are temperature-controlled to keep the yams till the time they have to go. We should invest in special containers for their storage.”

“If other countries are doing it, we too can do it. We’re trying to take over the market. We’ve come to nearly 70 per cent of raw output of yams. Why can’t Nigerians in Texas, Canada, London and Germany have access to the yams?” The Minister vowed that “we will go ahead with our efforts to export yam. We will not let this opportunity slip any further. We are determined to position our people to capture the investment opportunities and benefits in the yam export to these countries. We will fix the yam export value chain. We have the volume and the market.”

We will emphasise global best practices, engage with world class experts and international organisations as well as leverage the strength in indigenous knowledge. We will support investment in relevant infrastructure and facilities. We will revive the abandoned yam conditioning centres in Ekiti and Nassarawa states while we encourage the construction of new ones with appropriate equipment to boost storage and export prospects. We appeal to Nigerians, in the spirit of patriotism, to see the silver lining around the cloud of the week of misinformation about yam export.

We have commenced engagement with the National Assembly for the repeal of the 1989 law that prohibits export of yams and other agro-commodities. Currently, the bill has passed the second reading at the National Assembly. The continued existence of this law is an obstruction against the economic diversification and export initiative of this administration. We plead with the National Assembly to fast-track the repeal of the law and help us further unlock our export potential.

 

Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye,

Special Adviser, Media & Communications