By Johnson Momodu
What is evident across the country is that an agricultural revolution is taking place. Since the inception of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, agriculture has seen a new day. The success being recorded in the sector has been eliciting commendable comments.
Governor Saidu Dakingari of Kebbi State is of the opinion that the dry season support for rice farmers is the best thing to have happened in the sector in the past 40 years. He said jobs would be created because of that singular move. Dakingari also said that in a matter of months Nigeria would be among the major exporters of rice, and that would mean more foreign earnings for the country.
“The growth enhancement support scheme of the Federal Government in partnership with the state and in particular the dry season support for the rice farmers has transformed rice production. For 400-500 km, all you will see is paddy of rice in production. Such is the power of the massive change we are witnessing, he said.
In the same vein, Dan Rabi, a local entrepreneur who provides mobile threshing services for rice farmers, said agriculture under the administration of President Jonathan had been greatly transformed. He declared: “We have never seen anything like this in 40 years of rice farming. I make N15, 000 per day threshing rice for farmers. We work through the night and I employ 22 people just to thresh rice.”
In Kogi State, over 7,000 hectares have been cultivated in the dry season, the first ever in the history of the state. Governor Idris Wada said that employment had been created in the state via the transformation in agriculture by the Jonathan administration. Wada said, “We are in rice because of the agricultural transformation agenda of the Federal Government. We are overwhelmed. Every day we hear women crying, ‘We want land; we want land.’ We hear young people crying for land. So we had to hire more earth-moving equipment to clear more land to allocate to them for rice production.”
The success story of rice production has given room for the upsurge of integrated rice mills. 14 private sector rice mills have sprung up with a total capacity of 240,000 MT. Moreover, the reform that government initiated brought about an increase in the tariff on imported rice, thereby boosting the economic strength of local rice producers in the country. The capital flight witnessed because of the importation of rice into the country has reduced considerably. Today it is on record that several integrated local rice mills have their milled rice in the market and consumer demand and preference for local rice has risen due to better quality, taste and price when compared with imported rice.
Meanwhile, the international grade local rice that has hit the market includes Ashi rice, Mikap rice, Umza rice, Ebony rice and several others. A major foreign investor, Dominion Rice, has also come into the country and is investing $40 million in a 30,000-hectare commercial rice farm with international grade rice mill in Taraba. The Dominion rice farm which is linked to out-growers of young commercial farmers is expected to replace about 15 per cent of the total milled rice imported into the country.
It is not only in the production of rice that the transformation agenda of the current administration has paid off. A peep into what the transformation has done to cassava production in the country is worth commenting on. It is on record that Nigeria is the largest producer of cassava in the world with a total production of 40 million metric tons.
To raise production further to meet competing needs for cassava, 24 million stems of improved cassava varieties were distributed to farmers which were cultivated on 8,000 hectares of land. Through 2013 and 2014 combined, the federal government, according to reports, will be distributing an additional 65 million stems to farmers to boost cultivation as 21,000 hectares of cassava would have been cultivated.
Additionally, through encouraged research and collaboration, 40 per cent substitution of cassava flour for wheat flour in bread was achieved in partnership with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the Federal Institute for Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos.
Clearly, these commendable strides in the agricultural sector by the Jonathan administration have the potential to considerably reduce the number of unemployed youths in the country. Gone are the days when agriculture was not attractive to young people. Now young people are going into agriculture because of the enabling environment created by the current administration.
For instance, before now procurement of fertilizers used to be left in the hands of politicians who used it to curry favour from their political adherents. Such ugly situation changed with the coming of Jonathan’s administration; now, any farmer can walk into the fertilizer distribution centres scattered all over the nation and obtain the product without any hassle or having to pledge loyalty to any politician.
It stands to reason that Nigerians will gain a lot more if the commendable strides in agriculture are sustained by supporting Jonathan for a second term in office to enable him to finish the good work he has started.
Momodu writes from Benin City.