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FG seeks to cut $11bn food import bill

25 January 2013, 12:13

Abuja - Nigeria is beating its target to raise food production, lifting output by eight million tonnes last year, in efforts to diversify Africa’s second-largest economy away from a reliance on oil, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has said.

President Goodluck Jonathan laid out ambitious targets to raise food production such as rice and cocoa by 20 million tonnes within four years after his 2011 election victory.

This would represent an increase of around 15 per cent by 2015, based on the latest United Nations data, according to a Reuters report on Thursday.

In 2012, the first full year since the pledge, the country produced an additional 8.1 million tonnes compared with a five million-tonne target, Adesina said.

“Nigeria has no business importing food. We should be a global power house on food,” he said at a round-table discussion on agriculture in Geneva, Switzerland ahead of meetings with investors at the Davos conference.

Africa’s most populous nation was a major exporter of palm oil and cocoa in the 1960s but production has slumped as the country has instead shifted its economy towards the oil sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of government revenues.

Since an oil boom in the 1970s, a series of administrations have promised to support the agricultural sector to boost employment and alleviate poverty, but policy has been inconsistent and lacked commitment.

Poor infrastructure, corruption and mismanagement mean most farming remains at a subsistence level. Nigeria spends around $11bn on food imports annually, according to Adesina.

Nigeria, the world’s second largest rice importer, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, is on track to end imports of the product and double cocoa production to 500,000 tonnes by 2015, Adesina added, but gave no specific update on the progress of meeting these targets, which were first set in mid-2011.

“We have launched an aggressive rice production programme to make us self-sufficient in rice and we put in place incentives for the private sector to produce rice locally and it’s working,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.

He said Nigeria had built 14 new rice mills in 2012 with a capacity to produce 250,000 tonnes.

Adesina said private sector investment in agriculture was $8bn in 2012, without citing a figure for 2011.



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