Nigerian govt to disburse N60b rice subsidy, N24b to flood victims

Nigerian govt to disburse N60b rice subsidy, N24b to flood victims
November 16 23:42 2018

By Nasir Kura

The National Council on Food Security said on Friday that the federal government would soon begin the disbursement of N60 billion to subsidize rice production in the country.

Addressing State House corespondents at the end of the council meeting in Abuja presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, said government has also set aside N24 billion to mitigate the negative effect of flooding in some parts of the country.

“There is a subsidy programme coming up. Government has approved some money N60 billion to support the rice industry to bring down prices. But we are going to handle it differently. We don’t want to get into petroleum subsidy problem.

“So, a committee is looking at it with the Ministry of Finance. We think that it is better for us to loan money to the millers, farmers and distributors at a very low interest rate, so that the capital doesn’t disappear, so they have cheaper credit to do their business that should impact on the price of rice in the market. When we are ready we will let you know,” he said.

The minister also told journalists that the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) has concluded plans to restructure the Bank of Agriculture to make it possible for investors and farmers to buy shares in the bank.

“It will eventually become the farmers bank. And we hope that in the process this will bring down interest rates reasonably maybe five percent or a little higher, so that agriculture will become attractive and people can raise capital to invest,” he said.

The minister also spoke on planned ban of NPK15-15-15 fertiliser which has been used in the country for many years, saying that the ban became imperative because it adds no value to crops.

“We call for the ban of NPK15-15-15 fertiliser which has been used in the country for many years but recent research revealed its not useful for any crop or any soil. Soils differ and so does crop, to believe there is one uniform fertilizer you can spread for every crop is a fallacy.

“And it’s because we have done soil test and change the formulations of fertilizers, local blenders that some of the yields we are getting now are rising from two tonnes per hectares to five and six. So the president is looking into that and see how we can deal with it,” he said.

Also speaking, Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi state and Vice Chairman of the council, debunked claims by the United States Department of Agriculture that Nigeria would be the second largest importer of rice from 2019.

He said the report was based on the recent flooding, adding that it has no direct bearing with the current rice production capacity of the country.

He said: “We drew the attention of the council to a report by the US department for agriculture which suggested that Nigeria has been importing rice or about to the tune of about three million tonnes. We informed the council that contact has been made with the US agency to tell us the basis for the report because it’s not consistent with the report available to us.

“The only official importation in Nigeria is about 4,000 metric tonnes of rice. Secondly, the biggest exporter of rice, Thailand exported 1.1 million metric tonnes of rice to West Africa between January to October this year and India exported 402 million metric tonnes of rice to West Africa between January to end of July this year. That is a total of 1.5 million metric tonnes.

“Even if all was smuggled into Nigeria, that was the total amount of importation one could attribute to Nigeria. So, the US authorities responding by saying that their assessment was based on satellite imaging of flooded areas and consideration that we are about to enter electioneering period and that demand for rice by politicians or for political purposes will increase.”