By Michael Eboh
The Federal Government has disclosed that Nigeria is recording a massive decline in food importation, stating that its agricultural policies have started to have far-reaching effects on the transformation of the sector.
Speaking at the inauguration of chairpersons and members of Boards of 23 agencies and parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, weekend, Minister of State in charge of the Ministry, Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, however, stated that while the country had achieved significant results in its bid to grow the sector, it still has a lot of work to do.
According to Lokpobiri, over the last couple of months, the importation of food items including rice and fish into the country had reduced significantly, while he noted that efforts are in progress to further reduce all food imports to the barest minimum. “Efforts on developing other agricultural products like cassava, millet, cocoa, hibiscus flower (zobo), ginger, cashew nuts and so on, are yielding positive results,” he added.
Lokpobiri further stated that since the inception of the current administration, concerted efforts had been made to diversify the economy and agriculture is the foremost sector being explored in this regard. He explained that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has the responsibility of developing agriculture, making it the key driver of rural development for the transformation of the economy, with a view of attaining food security, generating employment and becoming a net exporter of agricultural produce and earner of foreign exchange.
“Our Agricultural Research institutions and colleges have a vital role to play in achieving this goal as they have a mandate to ensure the development of new technologies, inputs, production techniques, storage and distribution techniques and processes through research for improved yield and reduction in losses.
Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation also plays a major role in protecting farmers from agricultural losses in the entire value chain,” he added. He urged the newly inaugurated chairmen and board members, to view their appointments as a clarion call to service, and be partners in progress, stating that their competencies and wealth of experience would be required to support the institutions they are appointed into, giving strategic direction and ensuring attainment at the goals they were set up to deliver. However, he said, “Please note that your role is non-executive and part time.
As Board chairmen and members, you are to ensure the adherence to the tenets of corporate governance and remember that you have statutory responsibilities to bring your wealth of experience to bear on policy articulation and formulation for your agencies. The heads of Agencies and Parastatals are enjoined to work amicably with their Boards.”
In addition, Lokpobiri averred that the President Muhammadu Buhari administration is devoted to ensuring positive change in the lives of Nigerians and also improve standard of living across the country. According to him, this can only be achieved through transparency and accountability in the conduct of government’s business.