The Federal Government Thursday disclosed that a special fund has been setup to support rice farmers in order to crash the cost of local rice.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh said the fund will be managed by the Bank of Agriculture and the ministry stressing that the gesture would ensure local rice become cheaper and more competitive compare to the imported ones.
He spoke during a meeting with Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) and rice millers at his office in Abuja.
Ogbeh said: “We have been discussing the modalities to put in place to make sure that local rice sells much cheaper and that the prices can fall to the levels of foreign rice and eventually, below the levels of foreign rice.
“Every country in the world supports agriculture whether they call it subsidy or support, it is exactly the same thing. We are happy that the CBN has agreed to bring down interest rates on agric and manufacturing to one digit.
“We applaud that decision but at the level of FMARD and BOA, we have set up a fund which we intend to manage to support both the farmers, millers and marketers to bring down the price of rice because we are concerned about the cost of rice for the Nigerian family.”
The minister added that, “we want our people to feed well and feed cheaply but these things have to be managed carefully because we are dealing with public funds. We are also going to meet in about two weeks and organise rice fair beginning in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu, PH and one or two other cities to showcase the achievements of Nigerian in rice production.”
According to him, “there are those who do not believe that Nigerian rice exist but we know they do and we are very proud of the millers for their tenacity, investments and pains they have gone through in the last few years in trying to respond to a national call.”
He applauded RIFAN for their commitment towards ensuring the country achieves self-sufficiency in rice production.
“I want to convey to you the appreciation of not only the President but also the Vice President; a nation does not thrive at an import bill of food of $22 billion a year. We just can’t manage it and I want this message to reach those who keep thinking that importation is the answer, we don’t have the money, we want to create jobs so those of you investing in these sectors, we are very proud of you and we want to thank you very much,” he added.
The Minister reacted to flooded farm lands saying that agriculture research institutes in the country would be tasked to produce flood resistant rice varieties to check deficits in rice production.
“In two weeks’ time when we meet, between the BOA and the millers, we will put in place a strategy to support rice milling so we can see what we can do for lower prices at Christmas so two weeks’ time, a letter will be sent to you by the director agribiz and also talk with the CBN but be sure that we want you to succeed, to be rich, to make a success like other countries have done but one day, we want foreign rice to be a very rare commodity in this country,” he stated.
On smuggling, the Minister explained that President Muhammadu Buhari met with the President of Benin Republic and there were discussions towards reducing the scourge.
He assured that a permanent solution would be provided soon.