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.