I am very pleased to receive you today. Firstly, let me congratulate the farmers, the processors and the rice dealers for all the successes you have achieved to date.
Specifically, I want to thank you for believing in this Administration and our commitment to economic diversification and inclusive growth.
Your investments of over Three Hundred Billion Naira are located in some of the most remote, and indeed, most forgotten parts of the country. And a significant percentage of these investments were made during the recession. This shows you have great confidence in our policies and programs.
Our vision, as a Government, has always been to promote and support programs that will bring investments to these rural areas.
Not too long ago, our nation was predominantly driven by the rural economy. Indeed, Nigeria’s backbone was built by the farmers.
Somehow, we as a society abandoned the Agriculture sector of our economy. Agriculture became an afterthought and we forced our farmers into poverty.
Thankfully, Nigerians have now woken up to the fact that it is an embarrassment for us, as a nation, to import most of what we eat, given the great natural gifts of our country.
We have the fertile land, we have water and the manpower to feed ourselves. Therefore, we have no reason to import essential foodstuffs.
When we came in 2015, there were thirteen rice mills in Nigeria. Twelve of these were built between 2009 and 2015. This was an average of two mills per annum.
But my team and I felt more could be done. And we put in place measures and policies to unlock the potential of this sector and thus, increase the rate of investments.
You will all recall that in November 2015, I was in Birnin Kebbi to launch the CBN’s Anchor Borrowers program and also kick off the dry season rice farming. Since then, the Vice President and I have commissioned a record number of agricultural projects and programs. From rice, to wheat, to cashew, to animal feed, to fertiliser, to drinks processing and many more.
And very soon, I will also be commissioning a sugar estate. These projects are all over the country and worth billions of Naira. Clearly, our policies are working.
From your presentation today, you have shown that between 2016 and 2018, eight new rice mills have come on stream. This is equivalent to four new mills per annum. Our paddy production and productivity has also doubled compared to 2014 levels.
This achievement just confirms what we all know. That when Nigerians are committed to execute a task, it gets done.
I am particularly proud of how the narrative has changed. Agriculture is now seen as a financially viable sector. Many Nigerians, especially the youth, are choosing agriculture, as a profession.
We have former Governors, Ministers, legislators and major entrepreneurs moving into agriculture. Not as a hobby. But as a viable business that will generate income.
So when we have the youth, the enabling environment and the entrepreneurs, all coming together with the same vision, Nigeria certainly cannot lose.
The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding today between the farmers, millers and rice dealers is the natural next step.
The coming together of these three stakeholders is a major step forward. Specially, I want to recognise the wholesalers and distributors who today, by agreeing to promote Nigerian products over imports, have demonstrated a welcome patriotism.
Your commitment has guaranteed that the 11 million Nigerian farmers will remain employed. And I want to assure all of you that this Government will not let you down. We will also do our bit to ensure you are able to sell quality Nigerian rice at an affordable price.
We are committed to providing quality inputs at affordable prices. Some weeks ago, I met with the Fertiliser Producers Association, during which I urged the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Commercial Banks to support agro dealers with affordable funding that will enable them to provide quality inputs to the farmers at affordable prices, hoping to continue lowering the farmer’s production costs.
This Administration has been providing enabling environment, which led to the successes achieved to date. We shall continue to fight the smugglers at the borders and in the markets. We will also continue to invest in infrastructure to further lower the cost of operations.
Therefore, I want you to meet with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Minister of Finance and the CBN Governor to discuss your proposal further. I am confident we can work together to develop an implementable program that will bring down the price of Nigerian rice to the consumers.
I am impressed by the tremendous, but understated contributions of the small scale millers. These entrepreneurs must be supported. I am hereby directing the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to engage with the State Governments, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Bank of Agriculture to develop a support mechanism for these small scale millers.
I want to thank the Governor of Kebbi State for his unwavering commitment to the rice value chain and indeed, Agriculture as a whole. He has become a true ambassador for rural economic development.
I also must congratulate the CBN Governor for successfully managing the Anchor Borrowers Program. Your collaboration and commitment with other Agencies for the development of agriculture is a clear example of the alignment between the fiscal and monetary policies.
We must acknowledge the tremendous work done by the Nigerian Governors, as well as members of the National and State legislatures in pushing agriculture. I want to encourage you all to continue to push this agenda. This will be our legacy for generations to come.
I will be inaugurating a National Food Security Council that I will personally Chair. The council will include Governors, Ministers, Security Agencies and key stakeholders across the entire agricultural segments of farming, fisheries and livestock management.
Our experiences today of clashes between farmers and herdsmen or the challenges fishermen face due to global warming and other environmental factors clearly demonstrates that our quest for food security has a direct link to our national security objectives. The Food Security Council will ensure alignment and bring efficiencies.
I want to assure all Nigerians that this Administration is committed to Nigeria feeding itself. And from what I have heard today, this can happen in not too distant future.
As I look forward to receiving your joint proposal, I wish all Nigerian farmers, a very successful 2018 wet season.