Abeokuta– Audu Ogbeh, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development has lamented that the nation had been spending over $5,000,000million per day, importing rice and six million USD daily on the importation of wheat.
He also disclosed that the country spends as much as $800 million on the importation of fish each day in the last 25 years.
Ogbeh stated this while delivering a convocation lecture at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), stressing that importation of these commodities from various countries was synonymous with importing unemployment and poverty into the country.
He said food is basic to human existence, irrespective of social or educational status, religious persuasions, race or gender, noting that survival was impossible without food.
Ogbeh, who noted why Africa was having food problems with over 400 million hectares of uncultivated land, said that China has 27 per cent of world’s population and succeeded in feeding 1.4 billion people, while India with a population of 1.2 billion people exports rice, sugar and milk, among others to Nigeria.
According to him, with more than 50,000 hectares of land, Nigeria has failed to grow its own rice, sugar and cannot produce its milk.
“We import apples, wheat, fish, and frozen chicken at a cost of 22 billion USD per annum”.
Speaking further, he said in spite of the fact that all human societies had been divinely endowed with the ability to produce all the varieties of food required for human sustenance, hunger was still a recurring decimal and acknowledged this as an on-going global phenomenon.
Highlighting the processes that the nation should embrace to guarantee food security, Ogbeh stated that the first major step was the promotion of a culture of eating what the country grows and growing what the nation consumes.
According to him; “promotion of a culture of eating what we grow and growing what we eat is an important aspect of tackling food security. Nature in its wisdom had ensured that the best foods for one’s daily needs were clearly within everyone’s reach and in their respective communities along all agricultural belts in Nigeria.
He further said that another step was having a new policy direction for the agricultural sector, as outlined in the Agriculture Promotion Policy (APP) of 2016 and 2020, also known as the Green Alternative.
The Minister added that through the instrumentality of this policy document, the Ministry had consolidated on the successes of the agricultural programmes of past administrations in Nigeria without necessarily embarking on policy somersaults or reversals.
However, reeling out the roles of the Universities of Agriculture in tackling the challenge, he said that the universities should be the Ministry’s most important partner in the agricultural sector.
“The agricultural sector cannot thrive without knowledge. Therefore, specialised Universities of Agriculture were specifically established as the knowledge centres of this sector.
“Until the recent policy change, the institutional structure and functions of the Universities of Agriculture showed a marked departure from both the norm in implementing the concept of these universities in other parts of the world and also from the provisions of the extant law”, he added.