As the President Muhammadu Buhari administration continues to fight the current recession in Nigeria, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, the country’s agriculture and rural development minister, has warned that the price of a bag of rice could rise to N40, 000 by December, 2016.
The minister said except Nigeria was serious with local production of various commodities, it would be difficult to get out of the current economic doldrums.
According to Lokpobiri, who spoke in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, Nigeria currently spends up to $22 billion a year on importation of food. He also expressed concerns about the projection that by 2050, the population of the country would rise to 450 million.
He wondered how the country could cope with feeding such massive number of citizens if it does not get serious now.
The minister said while states in the Niger Delta are still lagging behind in the agricultural revolution, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano, Lagos, Ebonyi, and Anambra, have made agriculture a priority.
Illustrating further, he said Anambra state was not owing salary despite not being among one of the oil-producing states in the country.
As reported by the Punch, Lokpobiri said: “For your information, we spend about $22 billion a year importing food into Nigeria. We know how many more dollars … and that is why you see the price of rice going up.
“Price of rice was N12,000 some months ago, but it is now about N26,000 and if we don’t start producing, by December it could be N40,000. “Rice matures in three months. So, this is a wake up call for Bayelsa people to take the four farms we have seriously.
“The federal government has four farms in the state in our records. The average land you see in Bayelsa can grow rice, so the colonial masters were not wrong in their assessment when they said Niger Delta could feed not only Nigeria but the entire West Africa sub-region.
“Unfortunately, agriculture till today, is not a priority of the Niger Delta as far as the state governments are concerned because of oil.”
Though rice is among the commodities whose import is being frustrated by the government, there are reports that bags are still being smuggled into the country through its various porous boarders.