President Goodluck Jonathan on Monday said Nigeria’s current position as the largest economy in Africa in terms of Gross Domestic Product was not enough on its own.
He said the country must continue to work towards becoming the largest producer and exporter of food.
Jonathan spoke at the inauguration of Olam Nigeria’s 105,000 metric tonnes of Integrated Rice Processing Mill in Nasarawa State.
He said, “Nigeria’s position today, as the largest economy in Africa, in terms of GDP, is important, but not enough on its own.
“We must continue working towards becoming the largest producer, and exporter of food. It is my firm belief, that with our vast land, water and labour resources, Nigeria has no business being a net food importing country.
“We shall continue to work very hard to meet our goal of unlocking all our agricultural potential.”
Jonathan said when he inaugurated the Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011, his administration’s goal was to add an extra 20 million metric tons of food to our domestic food supply by 2015.
He said the country’s progress in this direction had been remarkable.
He recalled that the innovative electronic wallet system had empowered 10 million farmers with access to subsidised high quality seeds and fertilizers.
The President added that Nigeria was the first country in Africa to inaugurate this system that had now assured the people greater transparency and better productivity in the sector.
While saying over the past three years, the nation’s farmers had produced over 17 million metric tons of food, he said he expected that the country would surpass its 2015 target of 20 million metric tons of food, by the end of this year.
The President said the country could not justify the huge amount of rice it imports each year, when it had the potential to produce rice locally.
He added, “If we like to eat rice, then we must have to produce more. That is why we have placed total self-sufficiency in rice production as a priority for our country.
“Our commitment is to continue to reduce our food importation bill to the barest minimum.
“To demonstrate our commitment, I am glad to report to Nigerians that from a total food import bill of N1.1tr or $6.9bn as of 2009, we have reduced our food import bill to N684.7bn or $4.35bn as of December 2013.
“Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, Nigeria must be self-sufficient in food production.
“In this regard, our rice production programme has continued to receive very focussed attention.
” I launched the national dry season farming policy last year, so that we can grow two or three cycles in the year, instead of only once each year.
“It is encouraging that our national paddy rice production has grown by an additional 7 million metric tonnes within three years. This is remarkable but we have to work harder still.”
Jonathan said the private sector was key to his administration’s transformation agenda and agriculture and rice production could not be an exception.