President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his administration’s commitment to sustain interventions in the Agric Sector to increase productivity, ensure food sufficiency and grow the nation’s  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) .

He stated this at the National Agricultural Show in continuation of activities to mark this year’s World Food Day Celebration with the Theme:  “Our Actions are our Future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”.

The event was held at the National Agricultural Showground, Tudun Wada, KM 28, Abuja – Keffi, Nasarawa State on Wednesday, October 13, 2021.

The President, represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, stated that the series of deliberate interventions by the administration  has increased productivity in the sector, “as a result of the Federal Government’s policy initiatives and innovative funding in the sector, significant progress has therefore been made to improve agricultural productivity since the inception of the present Administration”.

President Buhari said  ‘’ In an effort to diversify the economy, Federal Government has continued with its renewed focus on the agricultural sector, developed an array of policies, strategies and programmes, notable among  which, is the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP), the Green Alternative, with the Anchor Borrowers programme initiative and ban on the importation of some agro-commodities.”

He explained that the initiative intended to create economic linkage between smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output to significantly reduce poverty, create job, assist rural farmers as well as to grow from subsistence to commercial production levels.

Mr. President further said that ‘’ to boost food security, Nigeria has curbed imports and established a robust rice production programme to encourage more rice production at home. Efforts in this direction are yielding positive results as Nigeria is now Africa’s largest producer of Rice with a production level of 9 million metric tons”.

He added ‘’ the country is the largest producer of cassava and Yam production with 59.4 million tons and 47.9 in the world, ranked the 14th in Maize production with 10.42 million tons and 4th in Palm oil with 7.7 million tons, range of policies and initiatives to strengthen the rice, livestock, and fisheries and other value chains have been put in place to harness the potentials targeted for development’’.

“Following other array of policies and strategies such as National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Plan (NATIP) 2021-2024, Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) and National Gender Action Plan (NGAP) which had provided virile foundation to unlock the country’s agricultural potentials and set the sector on growth path that would sufficiently meet the domestic food requirements and export quality levels’’.

According  to him ‘’ the programmes have created jobs for millions of youth and women and has reduced poverty, huge import bills and saves the country’s foreign exchange and It also envisages the deployment of innovative technologies in the agriculture sector for improved productive and product quality, reduction of waste and linkages for local and international investment, Mr. President stated.

He emphasized that ‘’ the Ministry this year alone has raised her national food reserve stock to 109,657 MT a figure expected to be further increased to 219,900 MT by the end of 2022.

He also said that  disruptions occasioned by the pandemic and flood disasters in the country came at a significant cost to Nigeria’s agricultural production and the ministry coordinated the release of over 70,000 MT of grains to vulnerable Nigerians to cushion the effects of the pandemic’’.

He also stated that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development through the Agriculture for Food and Job Plan (AFJP), a component of the Economic Sustainability Plan (NESP) target five to ten Million jobs in the agricultural sector and provide zero interest loans to farmers to lift Nigerians out of poverty, adding that the first phase of the scheme has produced over 1.1 million beneficiaries across all states and the FCT.

He disclosed that ‘’the Federal Government through the Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support project (APPEALS) has set aside N600 billion as loan support to farmers across the country. No fewer than 2.4 million farmers are expected to benefit from the loan which has zero interest. The gesture will support farmers in the country to improve their productivity aimed at boosting the country’s food security, improving farmers’ production and increasing export’’.

Mr. President stated that he  has directed the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertilizer Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure that the impact of this pandemic on food commodities and farming season is minimized. Nigerian Government had made provision for free and unhindered movement of farmers, food, livestock and agricultural inputs across the country during the lockdown.

He  expressed delight that the sector is being treated as business, no longer as a development project, with massive distribution of high quality farm inputs, dissemination of appropriate research results and significant enhancement of the agricultural commodity value chains.

In his address , the Executive Governor of Nasarawa State, Engr. Abdullahi Sule said the importance of the National Agricultural Show cannot be over emphasized not only due to its contribution in promoting self-sufficiency in food production but also in promoting the cardinal principles of President Buhari’s policy of diversification particularly in the agricultural sector.  Engr. Sule urged other state governments and relevant stakeholders to  embrace the National Livestock Transmission Programme (NLTP) geared towards achieving peace among farmers and herdsmen, increase production and boost the economic.

In his welcome address, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and also  Chairman, Board of Trustees of NAFN, Senator Abdullahi Adamu,  lauded the Agricultural policy of Mr. President geared towards empowering  the smallholder farmers, improving research institutes for better yield, food and nutrition security.

The Country Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Nigeria, Mr. Fred Kafeero, represented by Mr. Guy Kouame said,  ‘’ FAO has been on the forefront in global efforts to help eliminate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, make agriculture more productive and sustainable, reduce rural poverty, ensure inclusive and efficient agricultural and food systems; and protect livelihoods from disasters ‘’

In an earlier event ,as part of the activities to mark this year’s World Food Day, the Minster said  that ‘’Ministry  has trained 100 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)  Camp at New Kuchingoro in Abuja on new farming techniques and empowered them with farm inputs.  He added that the objective of the World Food Day celebration is to fight poverty , hunger and malnutrition”.

Addressing the people at the camp, the minister said, “We are here to empower you, share some food items and farm inputs that would enable you to produce your own food within your locations in the camp. This goes with the saying that ‘it’s better to teach a person to fish than to give a person a fish, the minister noted.

Responding, the leader of the IDPs, Luka Yatuma, commended the Federal Government for their gesture of teaching the IDPs new farming techniques.

“This is the time that we have been waiting for and this is the day we are waiting for. We are very excited because we are feeling the impact of the government. You are coming with what we have been doing to make sure that you teach us a new method on how to farm, we are so happy,” Yatuma added.