The Federal Government is to distribute 900 million seedlings of high yielding palms to farmers in the coming weeks to boost palm oil production in the country.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh made this revelation in his office on Monday, 10th October, 2016 when the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development paid him a visit, as part of its oversight functions.
The Minister stated that currently, there is 250,000 tons of palm oil shortage to meet local demand, adding that the planed distribution is to meet and surpass the current shortage.
Chief Audu Ogbeh also stated that the price of rice would begin to fall from November this year, as more Nigerians are responding to the call to return to agriculture, as a result of Government’s policy on importation of rice.
He emphasized that Government could not be involved in rice importation, as being speculated in some quarters, adding that his Ministry would not encourage such a thing that would be detrimental to local production. “We will not encourage rice importation, and there is no way our Ministry or Government can be involved in importing rice, when we are working hard to be self-sufficient in local production. By November, when full scale harvest starts, rice prices will fall”, the Minister said.
The Minister further informed that the late passage of this year’s budget had slowed down budget implementation. He however added that capital expenditure has begun, and about N80 billion was waiting to flow into the economy through contracts to be awarded soon.
Chief Ogbeh used the opportunity to call the Senators to impress it on State Governors to encourage agriculture in their States to complement Federal Government’s efforts in the sector. He said, “You may be surprised to know that only six to seven States in Nigeria are showing enthusiasm in agriculture. Some by nature don’t seem interested, while others just can’t connect with what we are doing at the federal level.”
Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, on his part, stated that the $22 billion annual food import bill had led to the astronomical rise in the cost of rice and other commodities. He cautioned that if Nigerians fail to produce some of the items being imported by December this year, the prices of such items could skyrocket.