By Bridget Ikyado
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar says the Nigerian government will earn N18 billion from the concessions of its 19 silos to the private sector.
The minister said the government concessioned the silos to enable farmers have access to storage facilities.
Abubakar made the disclosure on Tuesday in Abuja at the opening of the 2nd West and Central African Postharvest Congress and Exhibition.
The exhibition was organised by the Centre for Food Technology and Research, Benue State University.
The minister was represented by Haruna Suleman, Director of Food and Strategic Reserve in the ministry.
Abubakar added that the concession was to reduce post-harvest losses which farmers, especially those in rural areas suffer year-round.
The minister said 6,250 metric tonnes storage facilities had been leased to the private sector to enhance food security in the country.
According to him, the federal government came up with the initiative to provide enabling environment for private individuals to contribute to agriculture and food security.
He also said that the government had established 17 Green Aggregation Centers, to process agricultural produce and reduce post production losses.
“These centres are to allow farmers to be able to dry their produce, and in doing so, this will reduce post-harvest losses and also add value to whatever is being produced,” he said.
According to the minister, post-harvest losses has been a major problem farmers are facing in the country due to lack of storage facilities.
He added that farmers also face the problem of accessing the right equipment that can add value to their produce, as well as the problem of transportation.
“In addressing these problems, the federal government has been able to lease out the silos to the private sector.
“We have been able to establish grain aggregation centres that will be able to clean, dry and bag products.
“This lease agreement of silos to private sector will attract N18 billion to Nigeria,” he added.
Prof. Tor Iorapuu, Vice Chancellor, Benue State University, said that the exhibition was to rally stakeholders to collectively work towards producing indigenous foods and reduce post-harvest losses.
“What we are trying to do is to collectively show solidarity and collectively act towards ensuring indigenous food production and ensuring that post-harvest losses are curtailed maximally.
“This is going to be processed through research and practical strategies that will help local and large-scale farmers.
“We are happy that even the federal government has taken steps to provide silos across the country to ensure that the private sector enhances the capacity of local farmers to ensure food storage and minimise post-harvest losses,” Iorapuu said.
He emphasized the need for government to support researches on ways to tackle post-harvest challenges for economic emancipation of Nigerian farmers.
Iorapuu said the conference would also build the capacity of farmers on ways to add value to their produce.
He assured that Benue State University would continue to champion issues that would promote indigenous food production.
Dr Barnabas Ikyo, Director of the Centre, spoke on the theme of the conference: ‘Upscaling and Promotion of African Indigenous Foods’.
He said that it was important for Nigeria and other African countries to focus attention on indigenous food to enhance local production and reduce the bills on food import.
“We know that Nigerians who are dependent on imported food can actually decide to go back and look inwards and we think that most of our people who produce these indigenous foods are not getting the market for it.
“If we refocus our attention on indigenous foods, we will have the market for them, we will empower their economic viability, they will be able to produce more.
“We will reduce the export-import deficit, and we will have our children feed on better and fresh food from our farms,” Ikyo added.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the conference and exhibition, which will end on Dec. 2, is to empower African researchers to identify technologies through applied research for reducing post harvest losses. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Maharazu Ahmed