By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja
As activities of 2021 World Food Day commenced, Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari, assured 2.4 million farmers to access N600 billion loan facility.
Buhari who was represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammed Abubakar, disclosed this at the opening ceremony of the World Food Day activities at the National Agricultural Show/Exhibition organised by the National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria, NAFN, along Abuja-Keffi Expressway, Nasarawa State.
According to him the N600 billion loan facility is through the Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support project, APPEALS, with the aim of giving support to farmers across the country.
While speaking on significance of the exhibition of agricultural produce by various State Governments, research institutions, and the private sector, he pointed that Nigeria is leading as largest producer of rice in Africa with a production level of 9 million metric tonnes; largest producer of cassava and yam with 59.4 million tonnes and 47.9 metric tonnes in the world respectively; ranked 14th in maize production with 10.42 million metric tonnes; and 4th in palm oil with 7.7 million tonnes.
Meanwhile, according to him, cassava production has increased from 58.47 metric tonnes in 2018 to 73.91metric tones, and even projected to rise to 93.6 metric tonnes by 2023; production growth recorded for groundnut, tomatoes, and sorghum; Cattle beef, dairy and fish production also rose by 166 per cent, 146 pre cent and 11 per cent respectively between 2020 and 2021, which the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the National Bureau of Statistics reports indicate that Nigeria’s national agricultural import bill also reduced from N1.2 billion to N1.1 billion.
The theme for this year’s World Food Day is ‘Our Actions are our Future. Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life’.
He said: “The Federal Government is not resting on its oars in addressing challenges of the country’s agricultural sector.
“The Federal Government through the Agro-Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support project (APPEALS) has set aside N600 billion as loan support to farmers across the country. No fewer than 2.4 million farmers are expected to benefit from the loan which has zero interest.
“The gesture will support farmers in the country to improve their productivity aimed at boosting the country’s food security, improving farmers’ production and increasing export.
“It is gratifying that the sector is being treated as business, no longer as a development projects, with massive distribution of high quality farm inputs, dissemination of appropriate research results and significant enhancement of the agricultural commodity value chains.”
However, the President also called on Nigerians to join hands in investing massively in the agric sector to avoid any food crisis predicted by the World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, and the African Development Bank, AfDB.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Chairman, Board of Trustee of the National Agricultural Foundation of Nigeria, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, in an address of welcome stated that the Buhari-led administration has initiated programmes and policies to boost agricultural activities of smallholder farmers.
“As Chairman Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture, and other Senators can confirm that the President has carved a niche for himself for formulating policies and programmes towards development and food security in the country.
“This World Food Day comes up on October 15, 2021, and it is a very important day on the calendar of the FAO”, Adamu said.
He also said the Foundation’s topic for discussion year is ‘Celebrating the Resilience and Role of Smallholder Farmers in Sustaining Food System in Nigeria’.
“These toiling and hard working men and women deserve a better image. The smallholders are our backbone for our country, not out of sentiments but our genuine convictions that they deserve this great acknowledgment and capacity to be able to feed us”, he said.
According to him (Adamu), smallholder farmers have gone through ‘bad weathers’, policy somersaults and all odds yet have not disappointed the nation with their commitment to production of food, which they have not been compensated in anywhere, but have remained resilient to feed the nation.
Vanguard News Nigeria