‘Nigeria can no longer afford N22bn food import bill annually’

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri has reiterated the need to improve the agricultural sector, saying Nigeria can no longer spend N22 billion importing food annually into the country.

The minister made this known while inspecting the facilities of the National Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), in Sheda, Abuja.

He said the government will seek collaboration with relevant stakeholders, donors in order to assist the NASC to improve  their facilities for effective monitoring of the seed subsector.

“We have seen the necessity to improve the facilities we have here, for them to improve, themselves, we need to improve their facilities.

“We can’t afford the import bill of N22 billion spent annually on food importation. The objective of this administration is to see how we will be able to produce enough food for Nigerians to feed”, Lokpobiri stated.

He further said that the government was also planning on how to export a lot of the food produced locally as a substitute for petrol products.

He, therefore, said the foundation of achieving the objectives is the availability of quality seed, stressing that without supporting the Seed Council, the target of producing food for the entire populace will not be feasible.

While tasking NASC to dominate the seed market in Africa, Lokpobiri also told them (NASC) to live up to its responsibilities by tackling fake or substandard seed vendors.

Speaking on revenue generation, the Minister told NASC to commercialize their own seeds they produce as a Council, noting that it will bring a strong competition in the seed industry and generate revenue for the Council to run its affairs.

In his remarks, the Director General of NASC, Dr. Philip Ojo pointed out lack of funding as a major problem that have been hindering the activities of the Council.

He also said that some of the machines they Council use to test and improve seed production have been outdated and needs to be replaced.