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Buhari Denies Banning Food Importation

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President Muhammadu Buhari
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By Mathew Dadiya, Abuja

The presidency has refuted news making the rounds that President Muhammadu Buhari has restricted the importation of agricultural products into the country.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu made the rebuttal on Sunday while reacting to a letter to the editor published in the Financial Times titled”Muhammadu Buhari sparks dismay over policy shift on food imports”, 15th August 2019.

Shehu explained that it was not a ban, rather the Central Bank of Nigeria( CBN) will not provide forex for food importers.

He said any food importer was free to source forex from non-government financial institutions and pay customs duty on those imports.

”Your article “Muhammadu Buhari sparks dismay over policy shift on food imports” (15 August) suggests the Nigerian Government is restricting the import of agricultural products into the country. This is simply incorrect. To be absolutely clear, there is no ban – or restriction – on the importation of food items whatsoever.

“President Buhari has consistently worked towards strengthening Nigeria’s own industrial and agricultural base. A recent decision sees the Central Bank maintain its reserves to put to use helping growth of domestic industry in 41 product sectors rather than provide FOREX for the import of those products from overseas.

“Should importers of these items wish to source their FOREX from non-government financial institutions (and pay customs duty on those imports – increasing tax-take, something the FT has berated Nigeria for not achieving on many occasions) they are freely able to do so.

“Diversification of FOREX provision towards the private sector and away from top-heavy government control, a diversification of Nigeria’s industrial base, and an increase in tax receipts – are all policies one might expect the Financial Times to support.

“Yet for reasons not quite clear, the author and this newspaper seem to believe the president’s administration seeks to control everything – and yet do so via policies that relinquish government control.

“We look forward to the next installment of Mr. Munshi’s bizarre and puzzling article series,” the presidential spokesman stated.

Daily Asset calls that President Buhari had last week said that he had directed the CBN governor to stop providing foreign exchange for importation of food into the country, considering the steady improvement in agricultural production, and attainment of full food security.

The President said that the foreign reserve would be conserved and utilized strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food import bills.

Agriculture

Nigeria will Soon Witness Food Sufficiency, Price Reduction – NACGRAB

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The National Centre For Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NACGRAB), says Nigeria will soon witness sufficiency and price reduction in food commodities.

The NACGRAB Acting Director, Dr Anthony Okere, stated this at the end of a 2023 Technical Working Group (TWG) meeting on Seed For Resilience (SFR) organised by NACGRAB in collaboration with Global Crop Diversity Trust (Crop Trust) in Ibadan.

He said SFR came into existence in 2021 to improve the efficiency of NACGRAB genebank and enhance the use of conserved genepool by farmers and other users of genetic resources in Nigeria.

Okere said the project had exposed the diversity of sorghum, cowpea and other crops to farmers and other users in Nigeria in order to mitigate the effects of climate change and boost farmers’ productivity and ensure food and nutrition security in Nigeria.

He said that the project was successful, based on feedbacks from farmers and other users that the good quality seeds planted this season yielded well in multiples, compared to year 2022.

“Farmers now feeling free to come to NACGRAB genebank to demand more diversity of materials that could help them to get higher production which in turn would lead to food sufficiency and price reduction in Nigeria soon.

“There are availability of quality seeds in NACGRAB genebank that farmers can plant and generate good yield due to success of this project.

” Various farmers can now dwell in more crops instead of one or two crops; this project has made it possible for farmers to plant diversity of quality seeds and generate good yields which in turn will lead to food and nutrition security in Nigeria,” Okere said.

Dr Olabisi Alamu, the Activity Team Leader, User engagement of the project, said that NACGRAB and other stakeholders had been engaging with farmers about the project in the past three years.

Alamu said that farmers in Oyo, Niger and Kano states had been exposed to diversity of seeds of cowpea, sorghum accessions and other seeds conserved in the genebank.

He said that most farmers now had access to the seeds and were now using them to enhance production, increase their yields and income generation.

” In all the three states, we have 49 cluster groups; the Seed for Resilience (SFR) project has impacted over 1,000 farmers over the past three years.

“Some of them have been adopting it as a result of good quality, traits, early maturity varieties, high yields among others,” Alamu said.

The team leader said that some of the farmers had also multiplied the seeds they selected in year 2023 and as well disseminated it to other farmers, to enhance the use of the materials in the genebank.

The Oyo State Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Mr Abass Adewumi, said the project had exposed them to a lot of things they needed to know and apply on their farms for crops to germinate well.

Adewumi said that the research project had also exposed them to know suitable seeds for planting in certain environment which could give better yields, to maximise profit and shun the old ways of planting seeds. (NAN)

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Agriculture

ActionAid Frowns at Allocation of N1bn for Purchase of Agricultural Fund’s Office Building 

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ActionAid Nigeria (AAN) has raised concern over the allocation of N1. 2 billion for the purchase of office building for the National Agricultural Development Fund (NADF) operation in the proposed 2024 national agricultural budget.

The organisation also frowned at the allocation of N70 million for the purchase of office furniture, partitioning and fittings in the capital budget after the provision of budget line of N27.

5 million for office rent and maintenance of office building.

Mr Azubike Nwokoye, Programme Manager, Food and Agriculture AAN, said this while speaking with newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

Nwokoye described the allocation of N10 million for residential quarters in the recurrent expenditure as worrisome.

He says “NADF is going to be an additional fund to the agricultural sector that will mitigate the challenges of low releases, lack of releases and untimely releases.

“The fund is meant to put in more funding for agricultural sector in key areas where there are urgent need and where gaps exist. “

Nwokoye emphasised that should a new building and furniture be provided in  year one, maintenance should not be required as these were fixed assets that required no maintenance in one to three years.

The programme manager, who further pointed out the allocation of N450 million for the purchase of operational vehicles, queried the kind of vehicles and the number required for the NADF.

He says “this is not necessary. A brand new operational staff bus cost about N30 to N50 million and the fund cannot use more than three of such buses aside very few executive cars”.

Nwokoye commended President Bola Tinubu for the provision of the take-off grant for the NADF.

“We pushed over the years for the creation of a separate fund to support agricultural development in the country as our budget cycle and limited funding cannot cater for the needs in the sector.

” The 2024  budget, allocated to the NADF a total sum of N102.5 billion out of the toral agriculture sector budget of N362 billion.

“This is 28 per cent of the overall sector budget for agricultural financing. Of the total N102. 5 billion of NADF, N150 million  or 0.1  per cent is for personnel salary, N350 million overhead (0.1 per cent) and N102 billion capital expenditure  (99.5 per cent), “he said.

The manager recommended that N100 billion allocation for capital expenditure for NADF should be targeted towards achieving the commitments of the president’s state of emergency on the food security situation in the country.

He, therefore, suggested that the fund should focus on extension services, access to credit, women and youth in agriculture, appropriate labour-saving technologies and inputs.

According to him, the fund should as well focus on post-harvest losses reduction supports in the area of processing and storage facilities, trainings, market access, irrigation, Climate Resilient and Sustainable Agriculture (CRSA). (NAN)

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Agriculture

Food Security: Zulum Unveils 7 Pilot Irrigation Schemes

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Gov. Babagana Zulum of Borno, on Wednesday, said that his administration has initiated seven pilot irrigation schemes to boost agricultural productivity and enhance food security.

Zulum stated this at the inauguration of the Mafa Irrigation Scheme in Mafa Local Government Area of the state.

He said the irrigation scheme would be established at Gajibo; Jafi, Baga, Logumani, Damasak and Dadin Kowa communities in Dikwa, Kwaya Kusar, Kukawa, Ngala, Mobbar, Bayo and Mafa LGAs.

The governor said the initiative would enable the state to key into the President Bola Tinubu’s “Renewed Hope Agenda” to enhance food security in the county.

“The establishment of the Mafa rrigation scheme has started, we have so far identified a number of farmers and provided them with agricultural inputs.

“We intend to engage at least 10 per cent of the communities, especially in the dry season farming.

“Our focus is to drive into President Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, we will engage in wheat farming among other valuable crops.

“Most importantly, we want to see how we can improve the livelihoods of members of the communities.” he said.

The governor also inspected facilities including a fully solar-powered free-flow deep aquifer borehole with 30-litre per second discharge capacity and 2.4 million litres capacity earth dam.

According to him, the project is aim at addressing shortage of potable water in the town. (NAN)

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