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.

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