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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.

FMARD’s LIFE Programme kicks off Advocacy, Needs Assessment and Sensitization in 24 States & The FCT

The Livelihood Improvement Family Enterprise – LIFE programme, an initiative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has commenced its first phase of advocacy, Needs Assessment and Sensitization in 24 States and the FCT.

The LIFE Programme is designed to promote community-based on-farm and off-farm business activities, for job and wealth creation among women and youth in rural and surburban households. This will be implemented through training and support to have access to finance, affordable and improved inputs, sustainable farm practices, agro-processing and packaging.

The 24 states under the first phase, are made up of 4 States from each of the six geopolitical zones; and the FCT, bringing the total to 25.

States covered in the first phase are: Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, Ogun, Oyo, Ondo, Lagos, Niger, Kogi, Benue, Nassarawa, Gombe, Borno, Taraba, Bauchi, Kaduna, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano and the FCT.

The nationwide tour is focussing on enlightening farmers on the short, medium and long term goals of the programme; identifying agribusiness gaps in sample communities; data collection from LIFE clusters and cooperatives; identifying and verifying available structures; and identification/registration of potential beneficiaries.

Agricultural Research: Hon. Minister Ogbeh Pays Working Visit To Research Institutes in Zaria

Hon. Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh arrived the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State on Friday, January 19, 2018 on a 2-Day working visit to the three Agricultural Research Institutes situated in the Agricultural Complex of the University.

 

The three research institutes visited by the Hon. Minister were: Institute for Agricultural Research – IAR; National Animal Production Research Institute – NAPRI and the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services – NAERLS.

 

The visit was to have first-hand understanding of programmes at the institutes; learn about the challenges they face; undertake a facility tour of programmes and projects with a view to getting the institutes more involved in providing solutions to research-related agricultural problems. The visit was also to identify areas of challenge and effecting necessary improvements on Agricultural research in Nigeria.

 

During the visit, the Hon. Minister flagged off the nationwide distribution of Motorcycles to Extension Agents in the 37 ADPs in the country, to ease the mobility of Extension Officers and improve access to farmers; and also launched the National Farmers Helpline Centre, a project of the Federal Department of Extension Services of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nigeria. The National Farmers Helpline Centre is designed to provide information to farmers in all areas of agriculture, bridge knowledge gaps amongst farmers with encompassing experience in extension services, respond to complaints, enquiries and provide feedback. Other facility tours embarked upon by the Minister included the NAERLS Farm Broadcast and Printing Press Units.

 

Concluding his working visit on Day Two, Chief Audu Ogbeh visited the National Sugar Development Council where he was guided on a tour of Sugarcane plant tissue culture and multiplication laboratories. The Minister also toured the Institute for Agricultural Research Exhibition Hall, Samaru and inspected ongoing programmes on mechanization research, extension services, artemisia research, irrigation & farming systems, technology/biotechnology research, cereals research etc. Ongoing crop development programmes of the institutes include production of improved varieties of foundation seeds for maize, sorghum, cowpea, groundnut, cotton, sunflower and soybean. At the National Animal Production Research Institute – NAPRI, the Hon. Minister inspected the Forage Seeds Field and Stores, Dairy Production factory, Cattle and small ruminants breeding facility etc.

 

In a meeting with Management and Staff of the Institutes, ABU Vice Chancellor – Prof. Ibrahim Garba represented by DVC, Admin – Prof. Kabiru Bala and Heads of the research institutes made presentations on their activities, prospects and challenges. Chief Audu Ogbeh thanked the institutes for their enormous contributions to national development and for staying faithful to their calling inspite of difficulties faced, pledging to address the challenges presented.

 

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.

 

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.