End of Tenure Statement by Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, May 28, 2019.

I would like to first of all appreciate President Mohammadu Buhari for bringing us in, in October 2015 to join him in running this country. In the last three and half years, with my colleague, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, we have put our energies into building a strong Agricultural economy. I want to thank the President for recognizing potential and giving us the responsibility.

2. I also want to thank all those who worked with me; my personal staff, the ministry staff, the Permanent Secretaries, Directors and all other Nigerians who cooperated with us in making agriculture a reality in this country today.

3. Our biggest thanks should go to the farmers, small and big, women and youths, particularly the youths, who responded very well to our call. I go round the world and I’m told that young people are not interested in Agriculture. In Nigeria, it is the reverse, which makes me extremely happy. So, I want to thank our young people. We still have a lot to do in terms of resources such as cheaper credits, machinery, access to land and orientation generally but the signs you have shown are clear. If we do our bit, you will do yours. So, I will like to say to every Nigerian, I thank you.

4. I urge you to give your cooperation to our successors in office. We need to build this sector. I want to say finally, that last year, Nigeria made 30billion dollars from oil but Holland, a country of 17 million people made 90billion dollars from food exports. If Holland did it, we can do it.

5. I wish the President, the new cabinet and all Nigerians the best of luck. We shall stay together, pray and work together to make Nigeria a success story.

Thank you all.

NEWS FLASH: Honourable Ministers Hand Over To Permanent Secretary

In compliance with the directives by President Muhammadu Buhari, Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh and the Honourable Minister of State, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri formally handed over the reins of administration to the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Bello Umar on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at the Ministry’s Headquarters in Abuja.

In a ceremony attended by Directors, Special Advisers and other staff of the ministry, the Permanent Secretary praised the performance of the two Ministers while Directors took turns to appreciate the good work done by the outgoing ministers and the progress recorded during their tenure.

“During your tenure, you have moved this ministry to the next level and your contributions to Agricultural development especially in rural livelihoods improvement is outstanding. I congratulate you both. We at the ministry will remember you for your good work”, The Permanent Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Bello Umar said.

Speaking at the event, the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture – Dr. Amin Babandi said: “”Under your leadership in the ministry, Agriculture maintained an outstanding and consistent contribution to the nation’s economy. The wisdom you have thought us and the impact you have made will continue to guide us through”.

The Director, Agribusiness and Marketing – Alh. Musibau Azeez remarked: “Since your coming on board as Ministers, all aspects of Agricultural productions have recorded tremendous growth in Nigeria”.

The Honourable Minister of State, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri in his remarks said: “I’m extremely grateful to the Honourable Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh. We have had a very good working relationship. I’m very proud to be associated with him. I implore the ministry to sustain and improve on the progress we have made so far here”.

Honourable Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh thanked the President for the opportunity to serve, appreciated all staff of the Ministry for their support and cooperation and urged the ministry to give their cooperation to his successor in office, stressing the need to build the sector.

Federal Government Hands Over Concessioned Silo Complexes To Concessionaires

Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has presided over the official handing over ceremony of concessioned silo complexes to concessionaires who had emerged as preferred bidders after a successful negotiation.

Speaking at the event, Chief Ogbeh stated that the Federal Government established the silos complexes and commodity warehouses in various parts of the country with the objectives of promoting products storage, commodity price stability and industrial supply, adding that the concession is to ensure effective management and maximum utilization of the facilities.

Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammed Bello Umar described the concession of the silo as a step in the right direction, adding: “This will result in optimum and beneficial use and will help to create wealth for the operators, generate employment and stimulate agricultural production in Nigeria”.

Director General, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory commission (ICRC), Engr. Chidi Izuwah remarked: “These assets will now create financial value and aid the transformation of our nation as we are out to ensure that the government reap the full benefit of any public private partnership agreement”.

The transaction process to concession the silo complexes was initiated in August 2013 by the ministry, statutorily overseen by the infrastructure concession regulatory commission (ICRC) with support from the world Bank ans the ministry of finance.

The concession term is for a period of 10 years, during which the concessionaires will operate and maintain the silo complexes under the supervision of the ministry and ICRC. The concessionaires will compensate the government through a fee structure broken down into components.

SPEECH AS GUEST OF HONOUR AT THE MONTHLY MEETING OF HEADS OF MISSIONS OF EUROPEAN UNION MEMBER STATES COUNTRIES DELIVERED BY CHIEF AUDU I. OGBEH, HONOURABLE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT, NIGERIA IN ABUJA ON TUESDAY, 14TH MAY 2019 AT 10:00AM.

It is quite clear that Nigeria and indeed a large number of African countries have a major crisis on their hands. It is the crisis of the youth. It is well known that over 60% of Africans are below the age of 40. Given the stunted pace of development across the continent over the last few decades, this means that a great deal of anxiety exists for both the youth themselves and the governments of Africa-especially Africa, South of the Sahara.

Ordinarily these challenges should not be the burden of Europe, as African nations should be expected to face these challenges squarely. After all, a youthful population should be an asset and not cause for anxiety. The tragedy however is that a combination of factors in the last three decades have rendered Africa totally incapable of dealing with these-as with many other problems. Among them are the following:

  1. Uncontrolled population growth
  2. Ill-digested economic theories such as the structural adjustment program-whose application made it impossible for sustainable growth over a period of three decades.
  3. Excessive borrowing for ill-advised projects which led to an incapacity to repay loans
  4. Total lack of industrial capacity and inability to face social problems in education, healthcare and political management.

The result of all these is that an increasing number of young people have finished school and simply can’t find a job to do. Factories, the few that were, have closed. The textiles have shut down, as in the case of Nigeria.

Agricultural development generally declined, and Nigeria slowly, steadily became a nation incapable of rising to the industrial challenge which currently faces us. So, today, extreme violence as exemplified by Boko-Haram, restiveness in the Niger Delta (fortunately on the decline), hopelessness and criminality in Zamfara State – all of these have resulted in a crisis of migration. First, from the rural areas to the cities; and now from the cities across the desert heading for Europe.

This situation makes governments across Africa and especially the Federal Government of Nigeria extremely uncomfortable. We recognise it as extremely undesirable because we know it is neither sustainable nor acceptable. Large-scale migration across the desert through Libya to Europe cannot be seen to be a solution to our challenges. It is not fair to Europe that large numbers of young people should simply cross the desert heading North with no skills to offer, nor definitive purpose of positive contribution to the European economy. Many of them now arrive even without a passport, and therefore constitute a major problem to the nations of Europe. We do not as a people want it to continue and are therefore determined to take steps to bring it to a halt.

Solutions to the Problem:

Fortunately for Africa, and for Nigeria in particular, Agriculture offers us huge opportunities for solving this problem, and our current agricultural agenda targets action to create wealth through crop, livestock, tree crop and fisheries production and, most importantly, value addition. We want to take steps to make sure that our children do not continue to live a life of hopelessness. Nor continue to dream that arriving in Europe means instant wealth and comfort. We want to teach our children to work, to earn a living and not continue to be a burden to our European friends and partners.

We envisage that by embarking on this program, we would begin to immediately reverse migration first from the cities to the villages, and even from the cities in Europe, back to Africa. Because it is not for lack of what to do, but lack of will to do what is right.

In today’s expose, there may not be enough time and space to spell out all the details of what we intend to do, but in the agricultural sector as we have shown in the last three and a half years.

We have proved that we can produce our own rice and achieve savings of $5million a day. The CBN Governor recently confirmed that $21Billion USD has been saved on our food importation bill alone in the last thirty-four months.

We are the world’s largest producer of cassava, but no local value addition to convert this product into ethanol, industrial starch, syrups, glues, and even shopping bags as is currently promoted in today’s sustainable agenda. There is a vast opportunity in cassava to convert the leaves and peel into livestock feed for large ruminants, especially. We intend, to achieve this and more, in the current Livestock Transformation Agenda, and have promoted significant investment in the upstream value chain of cassava in the last four years.

(Highlights of A Few of our Important Agricultural Value Chains that represent huge market opportunities for development and represent a strong comparative advantage for Nigeria, albeit an untapped advantage, till now.)

  • Palm-Oil: A time was when Nigeria accounted for 43% of world’s total output of palm oil. We are now down to two (2) % of global production. The few major commercial producers of oil palm in-country have all confirmed a market gap and need to plant over ten (10) million trees, annually.
  • Groundnuts: Africa once accounted for 77% of world’s total output of peanuts. The famous pyramids of Kano where groundnuts from North-Eastern Nigeria.
  • Tomato: We are the fourth largest producer of tomato in the world, but we have almost zero capacity to add value to it or preserve it.
  • Fruits: We have some of the finest mango, oranges, and avocado pears in the world, but we have zero capacity for fruit juice concentrate production.
  • We have 20 million cows. One-third of cattle in West Africa are in Nigeria, but we have the lowest milk production capacity of all the cattle in the world, of less than 1 litre per cow.
  • Fish: We still spend close to $650 million a year importing fish.
  • Cotton: Nigeria had one of the biggest textile industries in the world in the 60’s and early 70’s. We had 145 Mills; Today that industry has totally disappeared. Textiles mills are gone. Cotton production down to near zero.
  • Sugar: We depend almost completely on brazil for sugar production. Although some local effort is being carried on now in Nigeria. It will require significant support to fully industrialise.
  • Cashew nuts: We are among the world’s top 7 producers of cashew, but we depend on Vietnam and India for the processing of the cashews and export to Europe.
  • Goats and sheep: We are among the largest producers of goat and sheep, although accurate figures don’t exist on these things. Yet the demand for goat meat in the middle-east is so huge it can hardly be met.

We were among the top producers of cocoa, today we have declined to number seven, globally.

  • Jute bags: Four decades ago, we had jute-bag factories for packaging our grains. Jute and Kenaf grow here in Nigeria. Today we are totally dependent on polypropylene bags for packaging agro-produce. This is thoroughly unhealthy and unsuitable according to FAO.
  • Hides and skins: Hides and skins constituted our major export items three decades ago. Today they’ve disappeared from our export list. Though we are aware they are still exported, in certain cases illegally to other countries.
  • Sorghum: we are the second largest producers of sorghum today in the world, but we are challenged by problems of aflatoxin and the yield per hectare is pathetically low.
  • Pineapples: whoever has tasted Nigerian pineapples will know that it is indeed a delicacy. We made efforts in the past to produce and export. We failed to sustain it. We have some of the finest avocado pears in the world. We have not been able to register in the world as a major shea butter exporter. We could do the same in pawpaw and passion fruit.
  • Bananas- banana production thrives well in the Cameroons, right next door to us here. We have very good Cavendish bananas but not produced to international standards.

These and many more are the things which lend themselves to easy exploitation. And these are the things we want to seek, of you our European partners to do because the migration must and can stop. What is needed therefore is the following:

  1. Mobilisation of young people in different parts of the country.
  2. Creation of awareness of the potential within Agriculture
  3. Organising the youth into geo-cooperatives in the various states of the federations.
  4. Acquisition of land for them
  5. Sourcing of capital-which is our biggest setback. Agriculture still receives less than 5% in credit from the financial institutions, forcing Government to unwillingly participate in direct credit support through the Central Bank’s Anchor Borrower Program
  6. Improvement in Research and organic agro-practices.

Where do you come into this?  You are our partners. We seek your help as we search for cheaper credit for agricultural practices, machinery, either from you or any other parts of the world which can help young people apply themselves to these activities because the hoe and cutlass belong to a bygone age.

Training of these same young people within Nigeria on agricultural best practices and standardisation-so the things we produce can meet European and world standards without the deficit of chemical and unnecessary fertiliser infestations.

Our request therefor is this-that we join hands with you the European Union to set up a joint operation here in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture to plot out details of when and where these activities can happen, and to source for whatever support you can offer.

We believe that in doing this, we shall find longer term solutions far cheaper and more humanly acceptable than the burden of having you patrol the Mediterranean in a desperate effort to prevent this armada of young people invading your shores.

In implementing this, we would like to set up a technical team to break down our areas of need, areas of operation and to tabulate the gains which will follow very swiftly. A Cost-Benefit Analysis would show estimates of this. Because this embarrassment is something we want to end and with your cooperation we think we can achieve it

You will find attached a proposal, which provides high-level details on what some of these programs would look like in detail.

What we want to do?

Having enumerated these items and these issues, our contention is that by returning our attention to agro-industry, with strong support from the European Union member states, and our development partners, we can within a few years, see the desirable results even in reverse migration from the diaspora to Nigerian cities, and from the cities to the rural areas. The strength and unity of our country depends on these rural areas’ development and growth as a country with strong roots with an economic backbone steeped in agro-industrialisation.

FG Flags Off Distribution of High Yielding Cotton Seeds, Other Inputs to Farmers in Katsina

President Muhammadu Buhari today flagged off the commencement of the distribution of high-yielding cotton seeds and other farming inputs to 100,000 cotton farmers in Katsina State for the 2019 planting season under the Anchor Borrower’s Programme.

The President was represented by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh in the company of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.

Speaking on behalf of the President, Chief Audu Ogbeh, recalled how the textile industries in the country used to engage close to one million workers but however, lamented that with the disappearance of the Kaduna, Kano, Ikeja and Aba textiles industries, Nigeria has become the importers of textiles.

“We believe that with this initiative, in a short while, we shall be back among the leading nations in textiles production because we are the biggest consumers of textile,” the Minister added.

Governor Aminu Bello Masari on his part said the state government in its effort to revive agriculture including cotton production had provided incentives such as farm inputs, modern farming implements and financial supports to farmers in the state, adding that the federal government’s initiative to promote cotton production under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme would support his administration’s quest of bringing back the lost glory of Katsina cotton production.

Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Godwin Emefiele said that Katsina was chosen for the flag-off because it is the leading cotton- producing state in Nigeria, adding that: “With the provision of these seedlings to over 100,000 farmers cultivating over 200,000 hectares of farmland, along with extensive training on proper farming techniques, we expect to see production of high grade cotton lint at much improved yields of up to 4 Tonnes per hectare, relative to current cultivation rates of less than 1 ton per hectare”, added.

Also included in the package to the farmers are fertilizer, pesticides and knapsack sprayers. The National Cotton Association of Nigeria is expected to ensure compliance of its members with the stipulated terms for the support that will be provided to farmers.

The programme which was rolled out by the CBN in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is targeted at reviving the nation’s cotton, textiles and garments industry.

Honourable Minister Meets With Stakeholders To Strengthen Aflatoxins Control in Maize and Groundnut in Nigeria

Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has met with officials of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA; Harevst Plus Nigeria; Harvest Field Nigeria and other stakeholders actively involved in the production and distribution of Aflasafe to reduce aflatoxin content in crops from field to storage.

Aflatoxins are natural poisons produced when certain mold species (Aspergillus flavours and Aspergillus parasiticus) grow in foods especially miaze, peanuts, dried spices and tree nuts. It is estimated that Africa loses US$670 million in rejected export trade annually due to contamination by aflatoxins.

Long term chronic exposure to aflatoxin consumption can result in liver cancer and immune suppression, stunting in children; and could contribute up to 30% of all liver cancer globally, with 40% occurring in Africa. In livestock, aflatoxins can cause weight loss and death while chickens fed contaminated feed lay 70% less eggs than those on normal diets.

As part of efforts to mitigate the impact of aflatoxins, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has continued to provide maize and groundnut farmers with Aflasafe kits, which are cost-effective biocontrol products, as well as train farmers on the effective management and control of aflatoxins.

The meeting which also had in attendance representatives of Maize and Groundnut farmers Associations, discussed strategies to strengthen stakeholders’ efforts in eradicating aflatoxins contamination in affected crops in Nigeria, enhance quality control & food safety; and move Nigeria closer to zero rejects of agro commodity exports.

Ogbeh Charges The Ncard To Provide Policy Direction That Would Improve Enabling Environment For Agric Investors To Ensure Food Security.

The Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has charged the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD) to articulate and provide policy direction that would improve enabling environment for investors in Agriculture sector and strengthen the development of the sector to ensure food security, diversification of the economy, employment generation and sustain livelihood in the country.

Chief Ogbeh said this in his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the of the 43RD Meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development held in Umuahia, Abia State on Friday, April 25, 2019.

The Minister said that he witnessed and appreciated the commitment and resilience of Agriculture stakeholders in value chain development towards achieving food security, employment generation and wealth creation in the country, adding that the dedication encourages the government to step up its efforts of facilitating infrastructure and incentives for increased private investment in the economy.

The Honourable Minister who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Mohammed Bello Umar said that the theme of the Council ‘’Consolidating the Strategies of the Agricultural Promotion Policy for Economic Diversification and Growth’’ is to transform this administration’s Change Agenda into Mr. President’s Next Level Mantra.

Ogbeh recalled that the stakeholders of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD) at the 41st Meeting held in Kano in 2016 led to the articulation of 2016 – 2020 Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) and its Investment Financing and Implementation Plan (IFIP). He maintained that his engagements and commitments of the stakeholders in the four years of this administration show that (NCARD) has all it takes to move Agriculture sector to the Next Level.

The Minister, in the light of collaborations, acknowledged the steady support of the Abia State Government in the implementation of policies, programs and projects of Federal Government States and other Stakeholders in the public and private settings, assured them collective responsibility of promoting trade and investment in Agriculture across the states of the Federation.

Earlier, the Executive Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu who was represented by the Deputy Governor of the State, Honourable Ude Ogochukwu welcomed National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development to Abia State. He thanked the Honourable Minister, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), and other stakeholders for chosen Abia State to host 43rd NCARD.

Governor Ikpeazu said that the theme of the Council ‘’Consolidating the Strategies of the Agricultural Promotion Policy for Economic Diversification and Growth’’ is remarkable and timely because of the need to exit mono-economy. He said that the Council’s responsibility is to assess the effect of extant policies and strategies, and fine-tune the existing initiatives for the attainment of food security in the country.

The Governor said that the government of Abia state has Agriculture as a priority for food production, employment creation and revenue generation, especially in palm produce, rice production, cassava and vegetables amongst others. He commended the efforts of federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture for creating enabling environment for farmers through the reduction of interest rate to a single digit to farmers, the privatization of Bank of Agriculture (BoA) and the Anchor Borrowers Scheme driven by Central Bank of Nigeria

He said that Abia State Government will continue to collaborate with Federal Government and partners in the continuous payment of counterpart funds for the development of Agriculture sector and diversification of the economy.

Mohammed Nakorji

Director Information

April 26, 2019

Keynote Address By Chief Audu Ogbeh, Honourable Minister Of Agriculture & Rural Development, At The Opening Ceremony Of The 43rd Meeting Of The National Council On Agriculture & Rural Development Held In Umuahia, Abia State, On Thursday, 25th April, 2019

PROTOCOLS……..

It is my pleasure to address you at this meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development, which has been our interactive platform for the conceptualization and review of policies, programmes and projects in the sector. In my engagements with stakeholders in the four years of this Administration, I have witnessed and appreciated your commitment to agricultural value chain development, towards achieving food security, employment generation and wealth creation in the country. This dedication always encourage the Government to step up its efforts of facilitating infrastructure and incentives for increased private investment in the economy. 

2.         Indeed, agriculture is certainly one of the most significant sector in the country as it will not only feeds millions of people, but also contributes towards the overall development of the economy. As such, the focus of this Council Meeting is to provide a policy direction that would improve the enabling environment for investors and strengthen the development of the sector to attain food security and sustain livelihood in the country. Hence, the theme of this Council “Consolidating the Strategies of the Agricultural Promotion Policy for Economic Diversification and Growth” is to transform this Administration’s Change Agenda into Mr. President’s Next Level Mantra.

3.         When we assumed office in 2015, my consultations within the set-up of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development fine-tuned the policy direction for the sector.  Our principle is to increase agricultural output, reduce food importation, guarantee a secure and safe food for Nigerians, and make the country an export hub. We shared this agenda with the stakeholders of the National Council on Agriculture at the 41st Meeting held in Kano in 2016.  It led to the articulation of the 2016-2020 Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) and its Investment Financing and Implementation Plan (IFIP).

4.         We charted the policy direction of rehabilitating and expanding the existing dams and irrigation facilities, strengthening extension services at all levels, and implementing a private sector-driven mechanization programme. We also embarked on streamlining the mandates, curricula and operations of agricultural institutes, universities and colleges for best practices, as well as the restructuring of the Bank of Agriculture to promote agro/agro-allied enterprises. We especially put in place the ‘Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprise’ programme to develop agro & agro-allied enclaves of farms and cottage industries. Our direction equally prioritizes synergy with development finance institutions to facilitate credits to agribusiness initiatives.

5.         A paramount focus of Government is the facilitation of water to farms for agricultural production. In this regard, our continuous collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Water Resources has enabled the completion, rehabilitation and utilization of large dams and irrigation schemes in the river basin areas. We in particular, concentrated on the construction of mini earth dams, water harvest structures and related irrigation facilities in many locations across the country.

6.         Equally achieved is an improved capacitation of the nation’s extension services system in making it a modern practice of linking farmers to research results, technologies and techniques for purposes of diffusion, adoption and application in agricultural activities. Our efforts strengthened extension delivery platforms, deployed additional physical and logistic facilities and engaged more personnel in extension services. This has broadened the reach-out to farmers and increased their awareness of agricultural policies, programmes and incentives. 

7.         Another area of our commitment is to enhance the country’s agricultural research system. We strengthened the coordination, programming and financing instrument of our Agricultural Research Institutes, Colleges of Agriculture and related disciplines, and the Universities of Agriculture. In addition maintained the intra-institutional linkages of these research and development agencies to uphold and practicalize the principle of ‘good agricultural practice’, mainstream research-market-industry interface and boost agribusiness undertakings in the country.     

8.         This focus of strengthening the National Agricultural Research System has enabled us to release a number of improved varieties of crops, livestock and fisheries to enhance the quality of disease resistance, climate adaptation, early maturity, production output and nutritional value. Effort is in place to continuously support and enhance our research resource capacity to exploit the country’s endowment and keep up with global trends in the application of knowledge to agriculture. 

9.         The Ministry primarily sustained the implementation of the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme of input delivery service via a private managed e-wallet system. Our modification of the scheme included an internal capacitation to directly operate the e-wallet technology, as well as the segmentation of commodity value chain along the parameters of farm location, farm size and commodity specialization of participating registered farmers.  

10.       A connection to the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme is the Anchor Borrower Programme, which we keyed into and readily partner with the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing Agricultural Lending Ltd, State Governments and collaborating commercial banks. As we are aware, this synergy has boosted commodity output through the increased the participation of farmers and processors, input manufactures and suppliers in the sector.     

11.       Also, our private-driven mechanization programme has established Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises Centres across the States of the Federation. The centres were equipped with tractors and implements to enable farmers cultivate their lands for food production. Related to this effort, we resuscitated the Animal Traction Programme to equally cater for famers’ needs in the preparation of farm land. In addition, signed MOUs with notable machinery manufacturers to establish tractor assembly plants and enable us produce machinery that are easily adaptable to the Nigeria’s land terrain.     

12.       In terms of processing capacity, we facilitated the establishment of several cottage industries in various locations of the six geo-political zones. This initiative was accomplished through the public private partnership arrangement with the Bank of Industry, as well as our direct commitment under the Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprise programme. It is a fulfilment of our resolve to upscale and expand the capacity of mini processing mills to add – value to raw commodities within a moderate resource capacity of entrepreneurs and investors.

13.       Other efforts led to the establishment of fish farm clusters equipped with fish feed mills nationwide to enable farmers access a common incentive of infrastructure, technical knowledge and incentive.  In the livestock subsector, 65,000 hectares from 13 States were secured as part of the 5,000 hectares each expected from States for the reactivation, establishment and development and of grazing reserves and ranches.  Also established are pasture plots and irrigation facilities in the existing grazing reserves, as well as Animal Health Centres and Veterinary Hospital in strategic locations of the country.

14.       For infrastructure, Government established silos complexes and commodity warehouses in various parts of the country to aid the storage of products, stabilize commodity prices, offer relief at emergency period and supply commodities to industries. For the purpose of ensuring an efficient operation and maximum utilization of the silos, we concessioned a number of them, slated some for future concessioining and retained some for relief management. Besides, we set up model Farmers and Cooperative Markets, Grains Aggregation Centres, Farmers Helpline Centres, Cooperative Development Centre and Extension Services Delivery Centres to provide basic agricultural amenities to farmers.  

15.       In mainstreaming youth and women in agriculture, we continued to implement the Youth Employment in Agriculture and the Youth and Women in Agribusiness programmes. The twin scheme has facilitated a series of training and kitting of beneficiaries in priority commodity value chains to start their agribusinesses and be self-reliant.  We therefore, recognize this window as a critical path to opening up opportunities for our teeming youth population towards engaging them more in agribusiness.

16.       Pertaining to agricultural financing and insurance, we in concert with foreign and domestic financial institutions, facilitated low-interest credits and insurance policies to farmers to support agribusiness operations. Our commitment has increased the interest of development partners and Nigeria’s corporate organizations in expanding credit lines and pooling funds for agricultural lending in the country. This effort is responsible for the establishment of the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria [FAFIN], the on-going restructuring of the Bank of Agriculture and the strengthening of the related CBN agri finance windows.

17.       In conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, we deployed food safety and quality instrument to enhance the domestic and foreign demand of agricultural products. We embarked on Zero Reject initiative on commodity export via a dedication to Global Agricultural Practice’s certification process in the country.  We also established a Nigerian Agricultural Export Control Plan and incorporated it into Nigeria regional trade facilitation programme with the European Union.

18.       In this perspective, I am positive that more impact will be made in the years ahead. We really have no other alternative than to re-commit ourselves to developing the sector as it holds a key to healthy life and livelihood for the populace. I therefore, encourage stakeholders to own the concept, schemes and strategies of deploying commodity value chain concept, with the approach of ‘inclusiveness, transparency, prioritization and partnership’, to promote agribusiness in the country

19.       In the light of collaboration, I wish to acknowledge the steady support of the Abia State Government in the implementation of policies, programmes and projects at the Federal and State levels. Together with other stakeholders in the public and private settings, I assure all of our collective responsibility of promoting trade and investment in agriculture across the States of the Federation.

20.       We are to ‘align interests’, ‘identify interventions’, ‘rank alternatives’, and ‘fine-tune strategies’. We also need to ‘pool resources’, ‘execute projects’, ’ascertain impact’ and ‘ensure continuity’. At the end, our synergy will help us achieve food sufficiency, enterprise promotion, productive employment and wealth creation in the country.

21.       Thank you and God bless.

Opening Remarks By The Permanent Secretary On The 43rd NCARD in Umuahia, Abia State On Tuesday, 23rdapril, 2019

PROTOCOLS

I am delighted to welcome you to the Opening Ceremony of the Officials Session of the 43rd Meeting of the National Council on Agriculture & Rural Development, holding here in Umuahia, Abia State. I am especially impressed by the commitment of delegates to an exchange of ideas on agricultural development process in the country. Our task at this forum is to assess the effect of extant policies, fine-tune the existing strategies and shape initiatives for the attainment of food security in the country. 

2.         As you are aware, the agricultural sector is meant to provide adequate food for an increasing population, supply sufficient raw materials to a growing industrial sector, expand market for agro-industrial products, diversify the resource base of the economy and create employment opportunities for the citizenry.  This direction has made successive government regimes to intensify a commodity value chain concept, strengthen sectoral linkages, promote import substitution initiatives, enhance value-added processing and encourage export–oriented activities, in the country.

3.         With the prevailing framework of the 2016 Green Alternative (Agricultural Promotion Policy), Government’s focus is to use the themes of ‘Productivity Enhancement’, ‘Private Investment’ and ‘Institutional Realignment’ to develop agriculture in the country.  We are implementing this policy by promoting research applications, reviving extension services, easing input access, facilitating affordable credits, increasing commodity output, enhancing processing capacity, broadening market access and expanding revenue earnings.

4.         The Ministry is committed to the provision of incentives to increase the output and quality of agricultural commodities to meet and surpass national requirements. As a core step of this obligation, we have strengthened the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme by validating farmers’ biometrics registration, using tablets for redemption, clustering farmers into commodity value chains, classifying farm sizes for production scale determination and providing minimum input package to farmers.

5.         Important to note, is the bush clearing initiative of wide land areas of dedicated agricultural enclaves, estates and parks for cooperative farming. This is in addition to our effort of assisting small scale farmers with machinery hiring scheme to reduce the cost of land preparation and cultivation.  Besides, we have reached understanding with certain agricultural machinery manufacturers towards the establishment of related assembly plants in the country to locally produce farm machinery that can withstand the varying geographical terrain and climatic conditions of the country.

6.         In this regard, we promote agricultural processing capacity in the country through the establishment of several cottage industries for the production of staple food products. Our strategy is to ensure a steady off-take of produce from out-growers to reduce post-harvest losses, create employment opportunities and enhance the income of farmers and entrepreneurs in every commodity value chain.   

7.         From the foregoing expressions, I seek your commitment and cooperation to agribusiness promotion, sustainable livelihood and food security in the country. I believe that the continuous collaboration of government entities and private establishments in agriculture will always be a plank for food security and employment opportunities in the country. An assurance in this direction is the focus of the State Governments on integrated farming system and commodity value chain development for the economic empowerment of our populace.     

8.         Thank you and God bless.