For Nigeria to achieve self sustenance in food production, the federal government must adopt an aggressive agriculture policy that boosts local production at the expense of importation of food items.
The federal government should equally establish an agency that would be charged with the responsibility of implementing whatever policies designed to drive the sector while the ministry of agriculture would remain essentially as the policy initiators, according the first executive director of the Nigeria Food Reserve Agency, NFRA, Dr Salisu Ahmed Ingawa.
“If I were to suggest to the federal government what should be its focus on the agriculture sector, I will recommend that an agency be set up to implement the government policies on agriculture particularly as regards food security through local production.
“In this regard, I will recommend the review of the bill for NFRA passed by the National Assembly since 2010 but which has not been assented to by the President. The bill established the NFRA as the primary driver of agric policies and brought major agencies and departments under it.
“I will suggest that in bringing the agency to life, the government should entrust the responsibility of manning the agency to somebody who knows the set up, somebody that can put it back to shade because the ministry is not equipped to implement projects.
“The ministry is essentially for policy direction while implementation should be for the agencies so that the government can achieve its desired results of feeding its citizens. I think for Nigeria agriculture to move forward, bringing back NFRA is absolutely necessary,” he said.
Dr Ahmed, who supports government’s quest to end importation of rice by 2017, however appealed for gradual halt to importation of the product.
According to him, the onion lies with the government that must decide whether to sustain rice importation in spite of the fact Nigeria has comparative advantage or do away with the importation policy to encourage massive domestic production with the attendant creation of employment opportunities to Nigerians.
“I think we should phase it out, let go of importation of rice and thus encourage domestic production. But a word of caution though, the government should not just stop importation without making adequate arrangement to meet domestic consumption. It must balance out both importation and local production before eventually halting importation.
“So, the 2017 deadline for the banning of importation of rice could be ideal because if domestic production is encouraged and domestic extension is revived, domestic storage is encouraged, agro processing of rice is massively supported as part of the national food security programme that we developed, yes, it is achievable.”

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