The Federal Government on Monday assured Nigerians that the current price of rice would begin to fall from November this year, observing that more Nigerians had returned to their various farms.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who stated this while addressing members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development at the headquarters of the ministry in Abuja, explained that the price of rice would start to crash at the next harvesting season next month.
Pointing out that the government could not be involved in the importation of rice as speculated in some quarters, he stressed that his ministry would not encourage rice importation because it would be detrimental to local production.
Ogbe said the Federal Government was against rice smuggling, as he noted that the Seme border had become a notorious route for the smuggling of contraband products into the country.
“We will not encourage rice importation and there is no way our ministry or government can be involved in importing rice when we are working hard to be self-sufficient in local production. By November when the full-scale harvest starts, rice prices will fall,” he said.
On why the ministry had yet to start implementing its capital budget, the minister explained that the delay in the approval of the 2016 budget had made it impossible to implement the capital expenditure in the agricultural sector.
His words, “It is about now that the capital expenditure is beginning. One of the reasons why money is not circulating is that we need to follow the due process on issues of procurement, advertisement and others.”
Ogbe further stated that his ministry has spent just N882.58m, representing four per cent of the N21bn budgeted for it in the 2016 Appropriation Act.
He also said, “You may be surprised to know that only six to seven states in Nigeria are showing enthusiasm in agriculture. Some by nature don’t seem interested, while others just can’t connect with whatever we are doing at the federal level.”
The minister disclosed that his ministry inherited N67bn debt when the present administration came on board, but added that N20bn had been paid to agro-dealers and distributed 900 million oil palm