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Jonathan approves N26bn for 2015 dry season farming

President Goodluck Jonathan has approved the release of N26 billion  for the 2015 Dry Season Farming Programme in the country.

Jonathan who disclosed this at the Agrifest 2015 ‎held at the Eagles Square on Friday which featured exhibition of  agricultural produce from farmers across the country,  said as crude oil prices decline, the nation must create new wealth from the richness of her soils, the vastness of her rivers and the abundance of her cheap labour.

He said he was very proud of Nigerian farmers‎, adding that agriculture was now a business and not  a development programme any more, insisting that his vision is to ‎”turn agriculture away from being a sector for managing poverty to one for creating wealth. We now see agriculture as a business, not as a development program. We now focus on developing the agricultural value chains, from the farm to processing and value addition. And we now focus on the private sector driving the agricultural sector with investments.

“Our country is producing more food than ever before. Our national food production has expanded by 21 million metric tons within the past three years. Our food import bill declined from N1.1 trillion in 2009 to N634 billion in 2013 and continues to decline. This is progress and we must continue to move forward!

“We ended the corruption of 40 years in the fertilizer sector. Our farmers now receive their fertilizers through the electronic wallet system using their mobile phones. Within the past three years, over 14.5 million farmers have been reached through the GES program. Our farmers that previously begged for fertilizers or are given fertilizers in bowls, now receive 2-3 bags of subsidized fertilizers. We have restored dignity and hope back to our farmers. There is much to celebrate in this sector.

“The number of seed companies has increased from 11 to 134 within the past three years, allowing farmers to be reached with high quality seeds. I am proud of the Nigerian seed companies, who together have now increased the volume of seeds available to farmers from 4,252Metric tons in 2011 to over 149,484metric tons today. This again is progress and we must continue to move forward!

“Our fertilizer sector is booming with N900 Billion  ($5 billion dollars) of new investments that will make our nation self-sufficient in fertilizers and turn us into a net exporter of fertilizers. As this happens, the price of fertilizers will decline, and farmers will be able to afford more fertilizers to boost their food production. I celebrate the private sector investors who are boosting our fertilizer sector. Again, this is progress and we must continue to move forward!

“With N900 Billion ($5 billion) of new investments in the fertilizer sector, Nigeria will soon become self-sufficient in fertilizer production, and turn into a net exporter of fertilizer. As this happens, the price of fertilizers will decline, and farmers will be able to afford more fertilizers to boost their food production. I celebrate the private sector investors who are boosting our fertilizer sector. This is progress and we must continue to move forward!

“Rice farmers across the country have a new lease of life, due to the transformation taking place in the sector. Over 6 million rice farmers have received improved rice seed varieties, boosting domestic rice production by an additional 7 million metric tons. The rice revolution is taking place across the country, from Kebbi, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto, Bauchi, Gombe, Niger, Kogi, Ogun, Ekiti, Ebonyi, Rivers, Anambra, Delta, Edo to Bayelsa State.

“High quality Nigerian rice is now competing favourable with imported rice in the markets. Our rice millers have taken advantage of these new opportunities, and the number of integrated rice mills has expanded from one at the beginning of this administration, to 24 today. And they are all here today. I celebrate you all. I eat Nigerian rice and can tell you it is better than imported rice.

“Nigeria our dear country will not be held hostage by rice importers. There will be no sacred cows under my watch. All those owing Nigeria on rice import duties must pay.”

The President also commended ‎the sorghum farmers, whose lives have changed as they now get better markets and higher prices from private companies processing sorghum into high energy foods, breakfast cereals and malt drinks.

“Our maize farmers are also part of this revolution. With our support, they produced 10 million metric tons of maize in the past three years. What a feat! From the vast maize belts of the northwest, north central Nigeria, to the maize fields in the southwest and southeast of Nigeria, a new dawn has arrived. Today, there is surplus maize in Nigeria, thanks to your gallant efforts.

“The cassava sector has also been transformed. We have provided farmers with 130 million stems of high yielding cassava varieties. As a result, our cassava production rose from 45million metric tons in 2010 to 55million metric tons. Today, cassava flour is partially substituting for imported wheat for making bread. I am proud of the thousands of master bakers of Nigeria who have been trained and have taken on the challenge to produce cassava bread through the N1.6 billion fund we provided to support their businesses. The Nigerian flour milling industry has now embraced the cassava flour policy.

“Today, composite cassava-wheat flour by the Flours Mills of Nigeria and Honeywell Group have gone commercial at the industry level with the recent launch of 10% cassava composite flour.

“We have helped to establish over 5,500 hectares of fully mechanized cassava farms in 22 States of the Nation. We have provided N6 billion to support the establishment of 6 large scale cassava flour processing factories in Ogun, Ondo, Delta, Abia, Cross Rivers and Nassarawa States. I am proud of our cassava farmers.

“Our cotton farmers are seeing a dramatic change in their fortunes as our support provided thousands of farmers with improved cotton seeds. We have revived 22 cotton ginneries. We have launched a new program to revive the textile and garments industry. We are turning cotton into white gold for farmers. I celebrate our cotton farmers.

“Our cocoa farmers are also witnessing a boom, as we are distributing to them 45.5 million seedlings of high yielding cocoa varieties, all free of charge.

“Today, from the L and Z commercial farms in Kano fresh dairy milk is now being produced and supplied to major supermarkets across the country. Thousands of Fulani cattle herders can now supply their milk to private dairy companies. We will continue to support our livestock herders with improvement in grazing facilities, watering points, establishment of ranches, stock routes and provision of veterinary services.

“We will continue to work hard to end cattle rustling and rebuild trust and cooperation between farmers and herders. I am proud of our livestock farmers, as I am proud of our farmers. We must unite and celebrate together.

“I am also happy today to see the positive changes happening in the fisheries sector. For the first time, fish farmers – from artisanal fishermen to aquaculture producers – are being provided across the country with subsidized fish farming inputs, including fishing nets, subsidized fishing boats and outboard engines, fish feed and other inputs.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, Nigeria acquired a deep sea marine vessel that will allow us to better harness the vastness of marine resources in our deep seas. From the small fishermen all across Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Edo and Akwa-Ibom in the south-south, to the boisterous fishing communities in Argungu Emirate in Kebbi and Sokoto states, Kano and Niger states, let me assure you of my full support to transform the fish sector of Nigeria.

“To further spur the traditional fishing competition in Argungu and promote fishing eco-tourism, I hereby direct the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to provide, henceforth, annual financial support for the Argungu festival.

“Nigeria’s oil palm story is changing. We are providing 9 million sprouted nuts of high yielding oil palm seedlings for farmers, all across the south-east, south-west, south-south and north-central parts of our country.

“Over N45 billion in private sector investments in new oil palm plantations are on-going. We expect 70,000 hectares of new plantations to allow Nigeria to become self-sufficient in palm oil production by 2016.

“I am excited that today, Okomu, Presco, PZ-Wilmar and medium size oil palm estate operators such as Wilbahi are taking the lead in revamping our vast oil palm plantations. We will continue to support the revamping of our oil palm industry and support the private sector to build new refineries to process crude palm oil produced in Nigeria.

“The future of the agriculture sector will depend on creating opportunities for our youth. That is why I launched the Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP), to develop a new generation of 750,000 young commercial farmers and agribusiness leaders for Nigeria”.

He said his administration was ‎ catching the youths early to change their mind-set on agriculture, through the Schools in Agriculture Program.

“We are making agriculture more attractive. That is why I approved the provision of N50 billion to support the establishment of 1,200 Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises across the country. Our goal is to take the hoes and cutlasses into the museums and replace them with tractors and mechanized equipment.

“I am very pleased that Nollywood is waking up to see agriculture as a business. I urge our film producers, actors and actresses to help project the positive image of agriculture as a business. That way our youths will see agriculture as profitable and dignifying.

“I salute the private sector agribusiness leaders, who are working to boost agro-processing and value addition to all the produce in the agricultural sector. We must add value to everything we produce and create wealth all across the agricultural value chains.

“I celebrate the efforts of the financial institutions, from banks to micro-finance institutions that have now began to lend more to farmers and agribusinesses. Our Development Partners have seen the turnaround in the agriculture sector and are actively supporting the sector. Over N900 Billion ($ 5 billion) of private investments have come into the sector in the last three years.

“Great farmers of Nigeria, today is your day to be celebrated. Thank you for feeding Nigeria. Despite the devaluation of the Naira, food prices have been stable, and inflation is declining, due to your great efforts in producing more food.

“You can do even more, and turn Nigeria into a net exporter of food. That is why government is rapidly expanding irrigation facilities all across the country.

“For the first time ever, the Federal Government launched a National Dry Season Farming Program in 2012. This has changed the fortunes of farmers, especially all across the northern states of Nigeria. Farmers now produce food all year round. Not only is food production rising rapidly, thousands of jobs are being created for the youth who now have quality jobs.

“Agriculture is now the lifeline for Nigeria. As crude oil prices decline, we must create new wealth from the richness of our soils, the vastness of our rivers and the abundance of our cheap labour. We will produce more, and we will industrialize the agricultural sector,”he stated.

President Jonathan commended ‎ the Minister of Agriculture and his team for their hard work, creativity, innovations and business-like approach, which have totally changed the face of agriculture in Nigeria.

“Great farmers of Nigeria, you can rely on me as the Farmers’ President. Be assured of my support at all times. To further boost your efforts to produce more food for our nation, I am pleased to announce here today the release of N26 billion naira towards the 2015 Dry Season Farming Programme.

“I am here today as your President. With your support I hope to be here next year as your President and then I will do even more for you. Great farmers! Great Nation!”

Earlier in his remarks, Agric Minister, Adeshina Adewunmi said, over‎ 20,000 farmers and private businesses were present at the Agrifest.

He said the agricultural transformation agenda  has change the lives and destinies of farmers in the country.

He said, “Agrifest is to celebrate the new dawn of agriculture because of the transformation agenda of the farmer’s president.

“With the fall in crude oil agriculture has become the new oil of Nigeria.

“The dry season farming has changed the face of agriculture in Nigeria.‎ Agriculture transformation agenda is not propaganda”, he said.The Citizen

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