President Goodluck Jonathan has approved N14 billion to support dry season farming in 2014. This marks a measured increment in the support for the scheme, as the president had approved N9 billion for the same scheme last year. Jonathan disclosed this yesterday, while launching the Dry Season Farm Support Programme at the Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja. He said his administration was poised to diversify the nationâ€™s economy from over reliance on hydrocarbon resources to harnessing the potentials of agriculture. â€œWe all know that Agriculture is the largest contributor to our gross domestic product (GDP) and is the largest employer of labour in our country. As a government, we are committed to diversify our economy from sole reliance on hydro carbon resource, our drive to unlock the huge agriculture potential in our country so as to assure food security and create wealth for our people,â€ the president said. According to him, it had become imperative for all Nigerians to have food on their tables. His said: â€œAs a nation, we must feed ourselves. A giant that cannot feed himself or herself â€¦, of course the weight of the giant will crush the weak legs if there is no food. It was in this regard that we launch the agricultural transformation agenda in 2011, with the hope of adding an additional 20 million metric tonnes of food to our domestic food supply to change their approach to agriculture. â€œWe no longer treat agriculture as a development programme, we now talk about wealth creation not poverty alleviation.
The various states have testified and almost all the states are now involved in this agricultural transformation agenda. We have heard from the fertilizer producers, we have fixed that sector. â€œBefore now, fertilizers were not getting to the farmers, sometimes the fertilizers that gets to them are adulterated with about 50 per cent of them filled up with bags and that will not encourage yield but government has been able to fix these lapses. Now farmers get the fertilizers through the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES).â€ Jonathan commended the relationship between Kebbi and Lagos State, saying, â€œwhile Kebbi State produces the raw materials, Lagos State buys the raw materials from Kebbi and goes ahead to process it.â€™ He noted that such a relationship should be encouraged, because â€œthat is how it should be.â€ The president noted that from the brief he received from the Ministry of Agriculture, about six million farmers had within two years that the programme started, received their farms inputs via the mobile phone. â€œI am pleased that our nation is the first in Africa to launch this electronic wallet system (e-wallet) to enable farmers to receive subsidised farm inputs via the mobile phone.
We have had our challenges no doubt about that. In 2012, we witnessed a devastating flood, the worst in recent memory. â€œTo me, it is the worst I have ever witnessed. Many predicted that we will have serious food crisis but when I interacted with the minister of agriculture, he assured me that we donâ€™t need to worry that there will be food in the country. â€œWhat many did not know was that the GES had earlier reached over one million genuine farmers directly with high-yield seeds and fertilizers and a significant share of them had already harvested their crops before the flood. And more so, a great percentage of them farm in areas that were not affected by the floodâ€ the president explained.
He noted that to further ensure that there was no crisis, he had directed that 40,000 metric tonnes of food from the nationâ€™s strategic reserve be released to the country. Jonathan said the directive paid off, as it stabilised the country within that period, and there was no price increase in food stuff. â€œWe provided a special fund of N9 billion to support our farmers to recover from the impact of the 2012 flood especially for rice production for which government is committed to achieving self sufficiency hopefully. High yielding seeds of rice including those that would tolerate flood as well as fertilizers that are provided free of charge to over 257,000 farmers in 10 leading rice producing states in the north, namely Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Katsina, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Kogi and Niger States. â€œWe want to thank our state governors for their strong support as they joined hands with the federal government to achieve this historic feat, together we can always achieve more.
Food is a primary vehicle to survival and we believe it is the right of every Nigerian,â€ he said. Earlier, the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Mohammed Monguno, noted that after hearing the testimonies of the beneficiaries â€œit has spurred us to want to present a growth enhancement support scheme bill to ensure it becomes a law so as to prevent policy somersault by successive governments.â€ The Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture, Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, also noted that when his committee investigated the petitions against the fertiliser GES and e-Wallet process it was discovered that the noise was being made by those who had been thrown out of the fertiliser racketeering business. He added the e-Wallet had used one stone to kill two birds as it had increased the literacy of farmers and that for the first time Agriculture instead of oil was occupying priority in the country. The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adeshina, told journalists that the N14billion approved by the president would be used to support the dry season procurement and cultivation of rice, wheat, sorghum, millet and groundnut in the North.