The Federal Government has approved a N60 billion subsidy for rice aimed at bringing down its price.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh disclosed this while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting of the National Food Security Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.
He said a committee would be constituted by the ministry of agriculture in collaboration with ministry of finance for smooth implementation of the rice subsidy programme.
“There is a subsidy programme coming up. Government has approved some money, N60 billion to support the rice industry to bring down prices. But we are going to handle it differently.
“We don’t want to get into petroleum subsidy problem, so a committee is looking at it with the ministry of finance.
“We think that it is better for us to loan money to the millers, farmers and distributors at a very low interest rate, so that the capital doesn’t disappear, and if they have cheaper credit to do their business that should impact on the price of rice in the market.
“Every country does it for food, we will use a different method to do it and it will be cheap credit to the farmers, millers and the marketers, not outright cash subsidy for their product,’’ he said.
The Minister also disclosed that the Council had called for a ban of fertilizer NPK 15-15-15, which he said recent research had indicated had no value for any crop or soil.
“We call for the ban of fertilizer NPK 15-15-15 which has been used in the country for many years but recent research revealed it’s not useful for any crop or any soil.
“Soil differs and so does crop, to believe there is one uniform fertilizer you can spread for every crop is a fallacy. And it’s because we have done soil test and changed the formulations of fertilizers, local blenders that is why some of the yields we are getting now are rising from two tonnes per hectares to five and six.
“So, the president is looking into that and to see how we can deal with it,’’ he said
Also the Minister said that the Bank of Agriculture would soon be restructured and expressed the hope that farmers would be able to buy shares in the bank after the restructuring.
“The Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) is about to restructure the bank of agriculture after which farmers are going to be able to buy shares in the bank, so eventually it will become the farmers bank.
“We hope in the process that it will bring down interest rates reasonably, maybe 5 percent or a little higher, so that agriculture will become attractive and people can raise capital to invest,’’ he said.
Deputy Chairman of the National Food Security Council and Kebbi state governor, Atiku Bagudu, also speaking on the outcome of the meeting, said that the council may subsidize the price of rice with N5 billion.
He said the subsidy would enable Nigerians to buy rice at a cheaper rate during the forthcoming yuletide as obtained in 2017 dismissing reports by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) World Market and Trade which suggested that Nigeria has been importing rice to the tune of about three million tonnes.
He said that in spite of the flooding the upland, rice production has been strong and that though prices have increase in response to flooding, “we still have adequate paddy rice in Nigeria.’’