Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Action Plan (ATAP) of the Federal Government will create 3.5 million jobs and add 20 million tonnes of food to the supply chain by 2015, the country’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina said.
Adesina, said on Sunday in Abuja, that to achieve this goal, the value chains of several priority crops were developed under the transformation programme, listing the crops as cassava, rice, cocoa, oil palm, sorghum, fishery and livestock.
‘We are transforming this sector now, so that we can move Nigeria from being an import dependent to a self-sufficient country in food production and also become one of the exporting countries.
‘The goal of agriculture transformation action plan is to add additional 20 million metric tonnes of food to our national food supply,’ he explained.
The minister said the transformation became imperative because agriculture remained the most crucial sector of the economy, employing 77 per cent of the workforce and accounting for 44 per cent of the GDP.
He said it was unacceptable for Nigeria to spend N1.3 trillion annually importing basic items that it had the capacity to produce.
He stated that Nigeria spent N635 billion annually on wheat imports; N356 billion on rice; N97 billion on fish and N270 billion on sugar imports.
‘Nigeria is spending today N1.3 trillion just importing basic things, like wheat for which we spend N635 billion every year; importing rice we spend N356 billion importing rice every year.
‘That means every day, by the time you and I go to bed, we would have spent another N1 billion importing rice from Thailand, from India and other countries.
‘We are even importing fish for all of the great things that God has blessed us with like waters, with lakes and creeks; we are spending a lot of money – N97 billion importing fish, not to talk of sugar -N270 billion importing sugar,’ the minister added.
He noted that such a development contributed to the growing food insecurity in the country, lamenting that Nigeria, which in the 1960s was a major player in global food market, was performing below expectation.
‘In the past, we were accounting for roughly 47 per cent of global market share for groundnut; today we are at zero per cent with regard to that.
‘We take a look at it with respect to cocoa, we were 18 per cent of global supply; today we are only eight per cent of global supply; we’ve lost that market to other countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia and Cameroon.
‘If you take a look at it in terms of palm oil production, Nigeria was at one point in the 60s accounting for 27 per cent of global supply of palm oil; today, we are at zero, again, that market has been taken over by Malaysia; in fact, Malaysia did get the seedlings from Nigeria.
‘So, we have shifted from being a productive and efficient and competitive agricultural sector of the 60s to one today that is not performing well as it should.
‘Today, we’ve become a large importer of food; we’ve exchanged the former glory for a new glory; the glory of food imports,’ he explained.
Adesina said if the agriculture sector performed optimally, the amount of money spent on food imports would be reduced and more foreign exchange would be earned from the export of commodities.
More jobs would be created and the rural economy revived.