Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has insisted that exportation of yam is a laudable development that will not cause artificial scarcity or lead to increase in the price of the staple food at the local markets.
This is just as the minister identified Oyo State as strategic and significant to the drive by the country to be self-sufficient in food production and exportation of agricultural produce.
The minister took this position during a courtesy visit to the State Governor, Senator Abiola Ajimobi, at the Government House, Agodi, Ibadan, Sunday evening.
Ogbeh is on a two-day working visit to the state, during when he is expected to visit farm settlements, old ranches and allied locations, as well as attend a town hall meeting with farmers, youths, women and other stakeholders in agric business across the state, on Tuesday.
The minister said that his visit was meant to reawaken the consciousness of the people to the untapped potential in the agric value chain and the strategic importance of the state as partners in the Federal Government’s latest initiative to use agriculture for sustainable development.
Having recognized the state as hosting the largest number of poultry farms across the country, the minister said that Oyo State could unequivocally be adjudged as the protein capital of the country.
The minister said that the concentration of cashew nuts in Ogbomoso was another opportunity that would be tapped by the FG, stressing that exportation of cashew nuts would no longer be allowed.
Allaying the fears of the people in relation to the decision of the FG to begin yam exportation, the minister explained that it was a laudable development that would not have negative consequences on the country.
According to him, yam was already being illegally exported through the borders with the labels of other countries that did not plant them.
The minister said, “Ogbomoso is the centre of cashew nuts. We don’t have to export it anymore. We will harvest and process it as well. We won’t be exporting jobs meant for our people. We can export the finished product, but not the cashew nuts.
“We have enough yams to feeds us. Some are of the opinion that exportation of yam would cause scarcity or price increase, it is a lie. People were already exporting yam through our borders and the painful thing is that they label the package with the name of those other countries.”
The minister said that the FG had made available a large quantity of farm inputs like chemicals, fertilizer, tractors and others to farmers in the state at 60 per cent discount.
As part of the strategic partnership of the FG with state, he said that the old cattle ranches located at Fasola Farm, in Oyo town and Ikere in Iseyin would be revived through concerted efforts by both parties.
Ogbeh said, “For many reasons, Oyo State is significant to the FG’s renewed efforts to take Nigeria to the Promised Land in our focus to be an agricultural exporting country rather than an importing country.
“Look at the fact that Oyo State has the highest number of poultry farms and other natural potential, like being a tropical, guinea Savannah with arable land, which will support extensive farming system.
“During the regional government in Nigeria, salaries being paid by the regional government were higher than that of the FG. The government then had ranches at Iseyin and Fasola with special cow breeds. The time is now to bring it back and we have swung into action already.”
The minister told the governor that Lagos alone consumed 6000 cows daily, while the whole nation eats 40000 cows daily, which, he said, should encourage the people to venture into cattle rearing as business.
In his response, the governor said that 80 per cent of the land in the state was arable, which, he said, had placed the state at a vantage position to benefit from the FG’s planned agricultural revolution.
Ajimobi urged the FG to step up advocacy on the country’s agric rebirth initiative and its inherent accruable wealth, disclosing that the state had taken a proactive step by embracing integrated organic agricultural system.
The governor said, “Nigerians should be grateful to God that this particular minister of agriculture is focused on bringing back agriculture to its old glory. Agriculture is profitable and we just have to let people know; we must find a way to make it viable.
“Our approach to agriculture is not monolithic in Oyo State, because we have adopted an integrated organic farming system, which has engaged over 1000 graduates. We have decided to dedicate 250,000 hectares of land, out of the available 350,000, to afforestation to achieve our dream of feeding Nigerians.
“We will leverage on your visit to achieve so many other things as we believe you will advise where necessary while you are here.”