Plans are underway to set up 200 rice mills across Nigeria.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, stated this while delivering the keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 42nd regular meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development in Port-Harcourt, Rivers state.
He also revealed that government would also begin the distribution of processing machines to women and youths to fight unemployment in the country.
“A new programme of Agro-industrialization is going to happen in the states; young people, women, elders who are interested will receive machines, we will subsidize at 60%, you can set up your oil mill, set your rice mill, set up cassava mills, set up yam flour mills, do whatever you can in the village; we don’t all have to migrate to the cities to survive.
There are two-hundred rice mills we are about to give out and every state must have one”, he added.
The Minister stated that the Ministry of Agriculture was ready to partner with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to revive the rice mill in Rivers state, and also reduce the cost of rice by cutting transportation costs.
On the issue of rice importation, the minister said Nigeria does not need to import rice; stating that since the federal government decided to focus on rice production in 2016, the country’s import bill on rice had reduced from five hundred and eighty thousand (580,000) tons to fifty eight thousand (58,000) tons.
On the issues of fertilizer and the need for soil testing, Mr. Ogbeh said: “We have given you a formula for every state. I am still very disappointed when I see some states are ordering fertilizer NPK 15-15-15. There is no soil in Nigeria that can accept the same amount of potassium phosphates and nitrogen; soils differ”.
He urged state governments to take advantage of the new soil map, as measures are being taken to make soil test kits available to ministry workers, so they can visit farms to test the soil for the right amount and type of fertilizers needed.
Concerning land clearing, Mr. Ogbeh said the Ministry of Agriculture with the help of the National Assembly has restored the National Agriculture Land Development Authority (NALDA).
He said the Ministry hopes to acquire new bulldozers for NALDA for land clearing to support states that will need help in the area of land clearing.
Catch Them Young
Mr. Ogbeh asked the state commissioners of Agriculture to include school farms in their plans.
“I want to ask you to include this in your agenda for the schools; the boarding schools in your states have to re-introduce school farms. Let the children learn how to grow chickens, let them learn to grow tomatoes even for the kitchen, learn to process something and when you start we will see what help we can get for you,” the minister explained.
He added that the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) was being restructured to meet the loan needs of farmers and hopes that the bank will be able to lend money at a single digit interest rate.
The National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development meeting is organized by the Ministry every year, to engage stakeholders in the sector.