The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Muhammad Sabo Nanono, yesterday said the federal government planned to ban the importation of milk within the next two years.

He also said that Nigeria has become Africa’s major producer of rice and the largest producer of cassava in the world, he pointed out that a range of policies and initiatives had been put in place to strengthen the rice and cassava production in the country.

Speaking to newsmen at an event to commemorate the 2020 World Food Day celebration yesterday in Abuja, he said the livestock industry had an asset base of nearly N33 trillion that must not be allowed to waste.

“We are planning in this ministry and watch my words, in the next two years we will ban the importation of milk into this country. And ask me why: we have 25 million cows in this country to produce five million litres per day. “The issue is now logistics, which we have started by setting up milk processing plants across the country. I see no reason why we should import milk in the next two years. We should stop the importation of milk”.

He also said fish importation will also be considered for an outright ban.

Also commenting on concerns about the increasing prices of food commodities in the country, Nanono said, “In the next two, three months, most of the prices will level off to a more comfortable level adding that the price of Milled rice is expected to reduce to between N14,000 and N15,000.

He said: “We anticipated the reduction in the price of rice.”

The minister said since the beginning of the 2020 farming season, the ministry had distributed inputs in all the states of the federation to boost food production.

The country recorded a boost in the production of major staple crops last year said the minister, pointing out that maize and rice production rose from 12.8 million metric tonnes (MMT) and 12.3MMT to 13.94MMT and 14.28 MMT respectively.

He added that cassava production also increases from 58.47 MMT in 2018 to 73.91MMT– and further projected to rise to 93.6MMT by 2023.

He said growth had also been recorded for groundnut, tomatoes, and sorghum production adding that cattle beef, milk and fish production also rose by 166 per cent, 146 per cent and 11 per cent respectively between 2018 and 2019.

Nanono maintained that significant progress had also been made to improve agricultural productivity since the inception of the present administration.

He said through various policy initiatives, the ministry had been able to raise the country’s national food reserve stock to 109,657 metric tonnes, adding that the figure is expected further increased to 219,900 MT by the end of 2020.

The minister also said that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is not resting on its oars in addressing challenges of the country’s agricultural sector.

He said the federal government through the Agro Processing Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project (APPEALS) had set aside N600 billion as loan support to farmers across the country.

As a result, he said no fewer than 2.4 million farmers are expected to benefit from the loan at zero interest rate.

According to him: “The gesture will support farmers in the country to improve their productivity aimed at boosting the country’s agricultural sector.

“The support was to complement the federal government policy on agriculture, which includes promoting food security, improving farmers production and also increasing exportation.”

The minister further called for massive investment in the sector, if the agriculture must be made more productive and sustainable.

He said such investment will help the country to quickly rise to the call against looming food crisis as already predicted by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Nanono also pointed out that in order to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the country’s food security, he had approved the setting up of a seven-member joint technical task team on emergency response to the pandemic.

According to him, the team, which was replicated nationwide had helped in facilitating the free and unhindered movement of farmers, food, livestock and agricultural inputs across the country during the lockdown.

He said on the orders of Buhari, his ministry had coordinated the release of over 70,000 MT of grains to vulnerable Nigerians to cushion the effects of the pandemic.

He said thousands of hectares of rice, maize, sorghum including livestock and fisheries had been affected by flood devastation this year.

The minister said a special committee had been set up by the ministry to act on the emerging flood issues and come up with strategies to minimise its effects on agricultural production in order to avert food crisis and ensure sustainable food security for the country.

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