By Chinyere Ogbonna – Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, says that agriculture sector created six million jobs in the last two years. Chief Ogbeh said this while analysing the achievements of his ministry and the 2018 targets of the administration at a strategy retreat in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
He made the point while reacting to reports that over four million jobs had been lost in over two years of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government. The minister explained that the six million jobs were created both on and off farms because of the huge increase in local rice production. According to Chief Ogbeh, Nigeria’s agriculture is heavily manual and to be able to reduce rice importation by 95 per cent, at least six million extra jobs have happened in the farm.
“There are about 12.2 million members of the Rice Growers Association, we have created more jobs than we have lost’’, he said. He noted that the country earned 31 million dollars from the sale of purple hibiscus popularly known as zobo leaves in the last one year and that the demand was on the increase.
The minister said, “We are exporting more than we are importing now and most exportation is agro-products. We are growing in agriculture and from the middle of this year; whoever chooses to eat Thailand rice is welcomed to pay duties.
“We shall impose duties on it because we consider it a wasteful luxury and something this country can’t afford’’. Chief Ogbeh said the federal government would also engage in establishing both cashew and cocoa plantations to boost production and export in 2018. He said that plans were underway to make the country leading producers in cashew nuts. The minister said that fertiliser blending would also be improved to accommodate micronutrients in the product.
According to Chief Ogbe, the government would also work to ensure quality control of produce both for export and local consumption. Meanwhile, the Technical Committee on Nigeria Yam Export Programme has said it is targeting the export of about 480 tonnes of yams, equivalent to 20 containers, every month in 2018.
Chairman of the committee, Prof. Simon Irtwange, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that the target would be achieved if all the challenges, yam exporters experienced in 2017, were surmounted. Irtwange said that the U.S. had made a request for the supply of five containers monthly, which amounted to 120 tonnes of yams.
His words: “If everything works out well, the U.S. authorities say they will need about five containers every month and one container contains 24 tonnes of yams. “We are trying to aggregate the demand from other countries, so by the time we put everything together, we should be thinking of exporting about 20 containers of yams monthly.
“When you multiply 20 by 24, the total is 480 tonnes of yams. We have a work plan and we have a lot of activities that we have already pencilled down. We are working with relevant government agencies to provide the necessary support for the programme”. Irtwange further said that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had made available the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal to facilitate the packaging and movement of yams meant for export. He added that the committee is also working with the NPA to get people who would invest in constructing yam pack houses at the terminal.