As the Government turns attention to agriculture to ease the pressure on the economy and create jobs, President of Dangote Group at the weekend flagged off his multibillion Naira 8000 hectares of Rice Outgrowers Scheme in Hadejia, Jigawa State as part of his partnership with governments at all levels to reduce food imports.
The launch of the Scheme, marked with the distribution of rice seedlings to the benefitting farmers, is with potential to provide direct jobs for 5000 farmers and another 5000 indirect jobs for various scheme dependants.
The rice project being executed by Dangote Rice Limited and expected to be replicated in six other states of the federation is a fallout of memorandum of understanding signed between Dangote and the Federal government on one hand and the Jigawa State government.
Speaking shortly before he made the distribution, Alhaji Dangote explained that Nigeria depended on Agriculture for economic development before the discovery of oil, noting that oil was meant to complement the agric sector but that sadly, the nation abandoned it and concentrated on oil.
“Before the discovery of oil, our economy was built around potentials from our palm oil, groundnut, cotton, and rubber plantations. Now the price of oil has plummeted from a peak of $116 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $29 per barrel in January 2016, this means there is huge loss of revenue to the governmnet”, he lamented.
Justifying his decision to delve into agriculture, Dangote said Nigerian agricultural commodities and food imports bills had averaged over One Trillion Naira in the past two years 2013 and 2014, with foods like sugar, wheat, rice, fish accounting for 93 per cent of the total cost of imports, a situation he described as unacceptable for any one who loves the country.
He stated that the huge amounts were being expended on food items that the country has potential to produce locally with attendant losses of employment generation and wealth creation opportunities.
He added that “the allocation of foreign exchange to import these items depletes the foreign reserves continually.”
Dangote disclosed that the Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme has been designed as a one stop solution for the rice value chain.
“Farmers will be provided with training, necessary inputs with guaranteed buy back agreed price, will improve yield, production and income for the farmers”, he added.
Excited at the Dangote initiative, the minister of state for Agriculture, Senator Heneiken Lokpobiri commended Alhaji Dangote for his intervention in the government efforts at providing food security for the citizenry, creating jobs and reducing dependency on food importation.
He expressed government readiness to provide all the needed support to make the Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme a success.
According to him, a whooping sum of $20 billion is spent on importation of food items that could be produced locally.
The Federal government he said, would like Alhaji Dangote to take the lead in the government planned Rice revolution to save nation needless importation of foods and subsequent loss of jobs
The Minister noted that the government is putting in place a strategy that will make farmers have greater access to farm implements to help them produce with ease.
In his address. Of welcome earlier, Special Adviser to Alhaji Dangote on Rice and Coordinator of the Outgrowers Scheme stated that not more than 2.6 million metric tons were produced locally leaving the rest to importation.
This he said was a disturbing situation because Nigeria was blessed with lands, good climate to support the cultivation of the best rice.
The Dangote Rice project he explained consisted of the Outgrowers and the commercial.
The Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Badaru Muhammed Abubakar thanked the Dangote Rice Limited for choosing Jigawa as the pilot state for the project.
He pledged the readiness of his administration to provide all necessary support to the project.
The governor said he had no doubt in him that Dangote rice will succeed in turning around the economy of his state, saying the company’s exploits in other sector like Cement, Sugar, and lately in oil and gas was a pointer to the fact that Jigawa was lucky to host Dangote Rice.