VP’s Remarks At The 4th National Discourse On Food Security Of The Companion

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I want to thank the Companion for the invitation to be here and it is a very pleasurable thing. I haven’t interacted with them but I hope that this will be the beginning and continuation of having more interactions with you. In a lot of the activities that you will have as a group, one of the things that will strike you is that our country is surely in need of building unity and I want to emphasize this because this country is a great country and it can only benefit all of us if we work as one regardless of faith,  religion, ethnicity and all other persuasions and considerations. We must keep our country as one.

I will be speaking and focusing on some of the efforts that we have made in self-sufficiency in food production.

Self-sufficiency in food production has been a major pillar of our administration’s economic policy. President Muhammadu Buhari set a clear direction on this issue when he said that “we must produce what we eat and consume what we produce”. We have backed that with substantial budgetary allocation to agriculture from N8.8b in 2015, to N46.2b in 2016 and by 2018, we allocated N103.8billion. And we have seen tremendous growth in agricultural output, we have grown by 14.27% as of 2018. And this is just by federal funding, and in a Federation as ours where the States are also contributing to agriculture, the aggregates must be quite interesting. But we also need the States to drive agriculture in the way that the Federal Government is trying to achieve self-sufficiency that we are intent on achieving.

Through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, which the President launched in Kebbi State in November 2015, credit is given directly to smallholder farmers, through the CBN and 13 participating banks.

So far, credit totalling N120.6billion has been given to 720,000 smallholder farms, cultivating twelve commodities including rice, wheat, cotton, soya beans, cassava, poultry and groundnuts, across the 36 States and FCT.

The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is now digitized. With all farmlands GPRS mapped, biometric data of farmers captured, electronic cards issued and specific inputs are recorded.  This has enhanced traceability and enhanced productivity and yield.

In addition, we launched a fertilizer programme to improve local blending capacity in collaboration with Morocco. Today we have 11 Fertilizer Blending plants with a capacity of 2.1million. Fertilizer price has since dropped from N13,000 per 50kg to N 5,500 and N6000. One of the things that have happened with fertilizer is that in the past, we used to import fertilizer and give to the States and the States will give to Emirates and Obas and they will distribute it in the way that they want.  But now, we have our own blending plants and we now manufacture locally, access by farmers is much easier and this has proven to be more effective and the farmers are a lot happier.

Today, but for a few drawbacks, we are confidently approaching self-sufficiency in paddy rice production, we have not come to the extent of self-sufficiency in processed rice, we used to import about $5million dollars of rice daily. Official imports are down to 2%. But local rice is still more expensive and there are about two reasons why that is so. First, imported rice is subsidized and production techniques in some other countries is very effective but, in our case, we are producing enough but even our output is not as it should be, although it has increased by about 10 times, but we are still at a point which we can do so much better.  And once we are able to increase our yields and mill our rice, then we can compete in terms of prices, but for now, we also intend to subsidize, which we are doing already.  We are ensuring that the rice farmers have a minimum price, it is not as effective as it should be, but we are ensuring that they have a minimum price by selling directly to the millers at the minimum price and government is able to manage that process.

We have opened up opportunities for greater entrepreneurial activity in the sector and there is much more investment in value-adding services in the value chain. In the last three years, more young entrepreneurs have taken to agriculture, and taken advantage of the massive market for food and agricultural commodities, and are doing well at it.

I will give you just three examples. Farmcrowdy is a digital agriculture portal that crowd-sources funding for farms across Nigeria. They have several farms all over the country and they invest in the farms, they provide extension and all that, they invest in the farms and pay dividends to all of those who are like shareholders in the farms.  Founded in 2016 by Onyeka Akumah and three other young Nigerians, it works like a mutual fund; pooling together money from multiple investors to establish farms and hire smallholder farmers to cultivate them, and then paying the investors dividends from the harvests from these farms. In December 2017, it raised US$1m in funding.

Four years before Farmcrowdy, in 2012, Yemisi Iranloye founded Psaltry, a cassava processing company in the rural town of Ado Awaye.  The starch it produces from the processed cassava is now used by several leading Nigerian food manufacturing companies, including Nestle, Unilever and Nigerian Breweries – as they increasingly replace imported starch with locally-sourced varieties. Psaltry was one of the companies that found growth opportunities in the midst of the recession, as companies cut down on their imports. In 2015, its revenues grew three-fold, and in 2016 it began building a second production line. What you can see is that the market is huge and they cannot satisfy the market and there are opportunities for companies coming into the market.

The Next Level is extending agricultural credit more extensively especially to farmers in the South. For some strange reasons, farmers in the South are not as keen on agriculture as those in the North. Some people say it is more difficult to clear land, it is more expensive but we can see that there is a great deal more farming activities in the North and as a result a great deal more prosperity coming from agriculture in the North.

So, part of what we are doing is that we are constructing more dams to strengthen irrigation practices. 7 of such projects were completed in 2018 – Kashimbila Dam in Taraba State; Ogwashi-Uku Dam, Delta State; Shagari Irrigation Project, Sokoto State; Galdam Dam, Kaduna State; and Ekeremor Water Supply Project, Edo State. Others are Mangu Water Supply Project, Plateau State; and Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi Water Supply Project, Benue State. 13 more dams are to be completed by or before 2020.

So, there is quite a lot of work going on in order to encourage farmers and dry season farming. The work with subnational governments to provide access roads to farms for easy conveyance of products and inputs between markets and the farm will continue.

A critical component also of our agricultural programme is described as the Green Imperative.  The main idea is to move from the prevailing basic form of agriculture to a more mechanized system.

This is driven by the private sector, the entire value chain will be developed from production through industrial processing to logistics/ handling and marketing and will involve full technology transfer.

The Nigerian government, in partnership with Brazil, will facilitate the financing of the provision of machinery, equipment, input, and services. The Brazilian government has a lot of advantage in agriculture, equipment production and all that.  In fact, in livestock farming, there is a State that has about 30 million herds of cattle. So, they are very advanced in livestock farming.

At the top of the mechanization chain are six assembly plants to be activated and spread across the six geopolitical zones. The assembly plants will undertake the assembly of tractors and processing equipment, as well as, light manufacturing of parts which will be sent out to the Service Centers closer to the farmers across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

The first assembly plant, among a total of six (6) to operate, assemble tractors and implement, will be located in Bauchi State in an already existing facility owned by a private operator.  It is projected that almost 5,000 tractors will be assembled in Nigeria every year.

There will also be a total of 780 Service Centers spread across all the Local Government Areas in all the States and the Federal Capital Territory.

Primarily, the Service Centre will offer a technological package consisting of machinery and equipment services (agricultural mechanization- e.g. rental of tractors), quality inputs (improved seeds varieties, fertilizers and pesticides), technical assistance and training for smallholder farmers in order to ensure consistent results of productivity and quality of agriculture produce.

The Service Centre will also perform an important market function of being able to aggregate primary produce for processing and haulage to markets. This establishes a means for monetization and loan repayment, based on a percentage of its own agricultural production.

109 of these Service Centers will be located in the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria and classified as “Process Service Center”. Process Service Centers will, in addition to the already mentioned services, have processors which serve throughout with which value can be added to agricultural produce brought in by local farmers. Service Centers will be based on the comparative and complementary advantage each location has and also along value chain lines.

For now, the value chain will cover grains & cereal, livestock, poultry, fruits, roots & tubers, horticulture and other areas.

The Green Imperative is the Next Level for Nigerian agriculture. But we are still quite far from our targets for self-sufficiency in food, which in itself is a great opportunity for investments. But even more exciting are the prospects for export. The opportunities today are mind-boggling. The story of investors in agriculture in Nigeria is also worth hearing.

Carlos, is a Mexican farmer and proprietor of San Carlos farms, possibly the largest banana and pineapples farm in Mexico, partnered with local investors to replicate his hugely successful fruit and vegetable farms in Mexico in Nigeria.  The idea was to grow for export. He currently farms close to 5000 hectares across 6 States. After his first harvest, he exported nothing but turned in a decent profit.  His partners asked him what the magic was? His answer, ‘we cannot even satisfy the local demand,’ he was making more money selling his bananas locally at $3 a kilo, compared to what he would have been paid— only a dollar per kg in Europe. We have a huge market and we need to take advantage of that market.

We still have a substantial percentage of the world’s arable land. We are the 9th largest in terms of arable land for cultivation and over half of that uncultivated, it is becoming clearer that the world will be looking to Africa and Nigeria in particular as its food basket. Just to take China’s demand alone. China has 27% of the world’s population but only 7% of the world’s arable land for agriculture. China needs 2 million tons of hybrid soya beans per annum for livestock feed and vegetable oil, we have not met that demand.

Sesame seed is also in high demand, about 2million tons per annum is the demand from China, Vietnam, Japan and some of the Arab countries. They need it for sesame seed oil, cakes and other confectionaries. That demand is largely unmet.

China also requires over 2.3m tons of cassava chips and cassava products for industrial starch and ethanol. We haven’t met that demand because we are not processing the kind of quantity that they need.

Africa as a whole has also not been able to meet China’s total demand for Cocoa. How about goat meat? 120,000 carcasses of goat meat is required weekly in different Arab countries. There is still a major gap in supply here as well.

Most of Vietnam’s demand for over 2.5million tons of cashew is unmet. All the cashew we produce we send to Vietnam and it still doesn’t scratch the surface.

So, Nigeria’s role as food provider to the world and especially in the next few decades, is very clear. If we focus on the production of food locally and for export, the sky is the limit.

In the next few years, Nigeria will be self-sufficient in most of its food requirements and I believe, we will be net exporters of several different kinds of food as well. There are many challenges, conflicts in the Northeast, Northwest, and Farmer/Herder clashes. These challenges are meant to be dealt with and resolved and we will resolve them by the grace of God.

With better inputs and better farming methods, this will greatly aid our leapfrogging into self-sufficiency in food. We are at the best time in history, technology is on our side, all of the new inputs that increase yields are available today.  There is no time that is better than this time in the history of the world for achieving all of our targets as a nation and as a people, and I pray that the almighty God will help us achieve all that we want to achieve.

Thank you very much.