Home Food FG to give 42,000 metric tonnes of grains hand out to hungry Nigerians—Kyari 

FG to give 42,000 metric tonnes of grains hand out to hungry Nigerians—Kyari 

by Business News Report

Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Senator Abubakar Kyari, yesterday day, disclosed that the 42,000 tonnes of grains will be distributed free of charge to the needy Nigerians across the country. Kyari stated this during maiden edition of the ministerial press briefing series organised by the Federal Ministry of Information and National Orientation. However, he said efforts are on to ramp up agricultural production across the country with incentives for farmers as a way of support and motivation. According to him, the country has 53,000 metric tonnes of grain reserved in the silos across the country, while 42,000 metric tonnes are requested for release, and 11,000 metric tonnes are reserved for any eventuality, and the reserves are in different locations but would not be disclosed for security reasons.

Speaking on mechanisation, he said there is over 70 million hectares of land but currently cultivating 30 million hectares, but said National Agricultural Lands Development Authority, NALDA, which is under the presidency will be approached for land clearing.  He also said on tractorisation, the Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, signed with John Deere is still in place as the Bank of Agriculture, BoA, is to work out the financing modalities to ensure farmers have access to the tractors. He said: “We have 42,000 metric tonnes from our strategic grain reserves, and the 60,000 metric tonnes announced by the Minister of Information and National Orientation was on the heels of the meeting with the Rice Millers, and other commodities’ producers, and some of these have huge silos in their factories, and we are trying to do some background checks on what is available, and that is not to say the farmers are going to produce it, they have them in storage and e are saying they produce and hand over for government to off-take so that it can be given out to Nigerians.

“We are still working out modalities of where and how we are going to do that and as soon as that is done I assure you that we will roll out the complete programme and plan. Even as at yesterday (Tuesday) there was a meeting between the President of the Rice Millers Association and myself. We would try to crash down the price of food and make it available, and this 42,000 metric tonnes of food will come to the needy free of charge so that will go direct to the needy at no cost at all.” Speaking on whether Nigeria is experiencing food scarcity or high food prices, the Minister explained that, “On the issue of food whether it is scarce, like ai mentioned food security covers three issue; affordability, availability and accessibility, and any of them is impacted it affects food security. Before in this country as we all know, usually between March and April when it is wet season the prices of food go up but why we are seeing now is January which means the issue of supply and demand is taking place. The affordability aspect is the greatest challenge we find ourselves today. There is food in the market but it is not just affordable. So these are the interventions Government is coming in and trying to do.

“Then the number one is to make food available which is through production. Some of these middlemen and as Ramadan is coming soon including Lent, they know and are working to hoard food in order to jerk the prices because we have seen reports of storage including hoarding.” Meanwhile, the Minister allayed fears of grains to be distributed to needy Nigerians at the State level. “I don’t want to speak on behalf of the governors but what I have seen concerning agriculture and food security, I have seen a lot of commitment from this present crop of governors. I had meeting with a team from the Department of State Security, DSS, in terms of intelligence report they have in those areas where it is needed, and I think these are areas that we have to look indepth, where DSS and at the same time NEMA uses, where we can target those areas where it is needed. The intervention is apt and is targeted at the needy, and we re collaborating with other agencies to see that this gets to the needy”, he said.

Meanwhile, according to him, the 42,000 tonnes from the strategic grain reserves in terms of quantity is 1,200 trailers. He also made it known that Nigeria’s annual rice production stands between 7 million and 8 million metric tonnes. “Nigeria’s yearly production of rice is between 7 million tonnes to about 8 million tonnes of rice. For the dry season farming we are targeting about 3 million tonnes because the states for dry season is not as States for wet season. If we don’t intervene that may fall short because of the support the government is giving to this farmers. We re targeting 500,000 rice farmers to produce two tonnes each which some may produce more,band 500,000 rice farmers will produce 1 million tonnes. With our support for farmers we may increase the tonnage in the whole country”, he said. On returning commodity boards, he (Kyari) pointed out that it is to ensure there is sufficiency of food and at affordable prices, and also modalities and the modus operandi will soon be rolled out.

“I think this (commodity boards) is arising from the challenge that we face in this country today that anybody can go to the farm-gate and buy food item, even if it is somebody from India or any other country, and this the issue that we are facing today as food security. Food security is national security. I don’t want you to look at it from the past commodity boards used to be but this is a board, an arrangement where they will take charge of what is needed for the country in terms of supply of food for our teeming population before others take for export and trading for instance, even commodity exchanges, but that is on a different platform. But what we believe is that we must secure the country first with food for the population before any surplus, and you must have a surplus before it goes out, and this is the essence of the commodity boards, and we a plan and we will roll out how the commodity boards will operate.”

Meanwhile, on the issue of double taxation on foodstuff experienced across the country, the Minister described it as a great concern, and said a national policy will be put in place to stop it. “This is a great concern. We have seen not only interstate but within the state. In Kebbi State of a truck is being charged N600,000. Immediately, when I saw that, I reached out to the Governor and I said this is what is happening, and he told me that he had already tackled the issue. We have to make a national policy because of the food security aspect that we have, and if fact, I have mentioned we need to take that step further because if you look at it from the local government authorities, security agencies we cannot hide from that, and there abound toll-gates simply because food is now viewed as a trading commodity not as a necessity for food security for the nation because of the situation and the challenge that we face we will have to come up with absolute statements that no double taxation should be applied to food in transit. Some states have already taken steps Niger State has stopped food transportation from one town to another, and that is a very good step and make sure that food is available so much as to avert any crisis that may arise”, he added.

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