…. FG halts sales of silos over food security fears
The Federal Government says the current hike in price of fertiliser is as a result of security concerns as criminal elements are using its components to make bombs and other explosives.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe stated this in Abuja at a Special Town Hall Meeting for Youths organised by the Ministry of Information and Culture.
The minister said that fertiliser being sold for N10,000 per bag was because the security agencies placed hold on its distribution.
“Fertiliser came late this year due to security challenges.
“We started moving fertiliser in February to meet up with the farming season but the national security agency stop us from moving it.
“Over 400 trailer loads of fertilisers were held down in Lokoja for two months because Boko haram were converting urea among other fertilizer component to make bombs.
“ It took two and half months to get arrangement from security agencies to escort fertilisers from the factories to the farms.
“We were cut between security problems and food security for the people,’’ he said.
The minister said that the delay in accessibility of the product led to hike in price.
He, however assured farmers that the price will reduce to less than N5,000 in the next planting season as arrangements were being made for transportation by rail.
Ogbe said that the federal government has also signed agreement with the Moroccan government for supply of phosphate and potassium for fertilizer production.
He said the agreement would assist in further reducing the prices of fertilisers to the barest minimum.
Responding to questions on looming food shortage due to alarming rate of exportation of grains by farmers to neighbouring countries, the minister said government cannot stop the trend.
He explained that as a member of ECOWAS and signatory to the Commission’s Free Trade Agreement, it will be illegal for the country to stop the exportation.
“Government cannot stop such exportation but rather would store grains in its silos,’’ he said.
Ogbe said that the silos with the capacity of two million tons of grains would be used to store the commodities which are currently been exported to West African nations by farmers.
The minister further noted that stopping exportation of grains would amount to depriving farmers from having huge returns.
“You are telling the farmers to grow food over the years, they have done so and their returns have been very low but for the first time they are making money and they are happy.
“People come from Ghana to buy maize, they come from Mali to buy sorghum and millet and so on and we are monitoring but we cannot stop them
“This is the best incentive you can give somebody in any line of business that there is a market and there is profit,’’ he said.
The minister said to ensure food security in the country and also have reserve for export, government will from January 2017 intensify irrigation farming for production of grains thrice in a year.
He added that about 10 irrigation lakes or dams would be built in every state to enable growing of food all year round.
He decried the situation where states like Oyo, Kano and Ogun were having 22, 23 and 12 dams respectively but none of them were being used for irrigation.
The minister attributed the challenge facing the country to the abandonment of agriculture for over 30 years.