The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh has revealed that the country is spending $4.6 billion annually on importation of fruit concentrates for juice production, while the natural fruits in the country waste away.
Speaking at an interactive session with the House of Representatives Committee on Rural Development, he lamented that the influx of imported, and yet adulterated food products into the country was to the detriment of local producers.
Ogbeh also revealed that the Federal Government was owing suppliers of fertilizer about N42 billion due to inability of states to meet their 25 percent counterpart funding of the fertilizer subsidy scheme.
He said most contraband in the nation comes through Seme and Nigeria-Cameroon border, adding that in just one night in the previous week, 300 trucks of expired rice, some already 10 years old found their way into Nigeria.
He said: “How can we invite farmers to grow food, and yet they cannot sell them, because of cheaper imported substitutes,” adding that free trade agreements and globalization was imparting negatively on the country.
“We cannot continue to sacrifice the lives of Nigerians on the alter of friendship,” he said.
According to Ogbeh, agricultural mechanization is the way forward as it would attract younger farmers, just as new fertilizer distribution system would eliminate middlemen.
Chairman of the committee, Hon. Oladipupo Adebutu urged the minister to embrace a “protectionism strategy” which, he said, is necessary to protect Nigerian farmers and citizens.
By Pita Ochai