Amid concerns over the assurance of Nigerian food security levels in the wake of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Federal Government has restated its plan towards commercialising agriculture in the country to boost food production.
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sabo Nanono, who made this known in an interview in Abuja recently, emphasised that there was urgent need to strengthen the capacity of the country’s agric sector.
The agric minister had few weeks ago in Kebbi State announced Federal Government’s approval of a N13 billion pest control intervention fund to fight locusts, grasshoppers, quela birds, etc. across 12 frontline northern states in Nigeria.
Alhough, the huge sum allocation approved by government generated uproar because it was not captured for 2020 budget.
Speaking during the interview, the agric minister raised concerns over a possible spillover of the current locust invasion in East Africa into West Africa, including Nigeria, as earlier warned by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
Nanono, however, assured Nigerians of the ministry’s proactive steps towards protecting the country. These steps, he said, would go a long way to secure the future of Nigeria’s food security systems.
Speaking on mechanisation, Nanono noted that Nigeria was ready for a shift to mechanised agriculture after many years of practising subsistence farming.
He said: “I think Nigeria has now arrived at a point where commercialisation is a must.
“I’m happy to note that over the last 10-15 years, a lot of agricultural commercialisation has taken place in this country and the government is creating enabling conditions for agriculture commercialisation to take place.”
The minister observed that the country was not maximising its potential in terms of land cultivation due to the lack of mechanisation efforts.
He, however, expressed optimism in the off-take of mechanised farming in Nigeria, adding that mechanisation should be in full swing in the next one year.
Speaking on the ministry’s plan to upscale the cocoa subsector, Nanono noted that unlike her neighbouring countries, Nigeria’s turnover rate for cocoa expands over a considerably long period of time.
He explained that while countries like Ghana and Ivory Coast were producing cocoa with a turnover period of two and half years, Nigeria’s takes as long as seven and a half years.
Nanono further explained that while neighbouring countries were able to achieve such speed through “tissue culture” which requires sufficient financing of the sub-sector, Nigeria has not been maximising funding opportunities available from international banks.
The minister, however, lauded the Cross River State Government for its efforts towards up-scaling agro-industrialisation and cocoa production in the country.
He said: “I am happy to note that in Cross River State, the government is very serious with agriculture, and cocoa production has gone up there.
“The state government has established a very versatile and new cocoa processing plant through which it intends to create employability by processing cocoa into powder and other related products.”
Source: New Telegraphing