African Development Bank (AfDB) Chief Operations Officer (COO), Patrick Agboma, has said that Africa’s second largest economy, Nigeria, can stop importing rice by 2015 “if the right things are done”.
Agboma who spoke with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Abuja lamented on the amount Nigeria spend on rice importation.
“If you hear about the amount of rice the country imports, you will wonder why it cannot produce its own rice,” he said.
Agboma added that with only 40 percent of the over 84 million hectares of arable land currently utilised, the agricultural potential of the country had yet to be tapped.
The COO however posits that what Nigerian government needs to do is to triple rice production from the current production figures.
According to him, the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) needs to address this shortfall.
Agboma affirmed that AfDB is ready to partner with Nigeria in attaining its food sufficiency target.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwumi Adesina, had announced in 2012 that the country would stop the importation of rice by 2015 to ensure rice sufficiency.
The AfDB official noted that Nigeria has made progress in this stance with the private sector providing 13 rice mills with 240,000-tonne production capacity, adding that the sector remained critical in the diversification of the economy.
“There is cause for hope; we can begin by improving budgetary allocation to agriculture. In the 2013 budget proposal of over N4 trillion, agriculture and rural development was allocated just N81.41billion.”
“This is far less than the 10 per cent that the African Union, in its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme adopted in 2003, that its member nations should dedicate to agriculture.’’
He advised Nigeria to emulate some progressive countries like Rwanda, that had made agriculture a priority.
According to him, Rwanda reportedly achieved 15 percent rise in food production in 2008 by simply increasing its investment in agriculture by 30 per cent between 2007 and 2009.