TBY Interviews Nigeria Agriculture and Rural Development Minister

TBY recently interviewed in Abuja Hon. Audu Innocent Ogbeh, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.

TBY and Hon Ogbeh discussed the country’s path toward self-sufficiency, particularly with regards to rice: “by YE2017 we will have achieved self-sufficiency in rice paddy production, but milling is still a challenge. However, we think by March-April 2018 we will have overcome this issue and there will be absolutely no need for Nigeria to import rice. So, in terms of domestic food supply we are heading towards self-sufficiency by mid-2018.” The Minister also discussed the government’s efforts to expand Nigeria’s agricultural exports capacity. “By 2030 Europe, China and India will be done with hydrocarbons. However, every country needs foreign reserves, so Nigeria must find something else to export.” As for the crops with highest export potential, he mentioned cashew nuts and cocoa, but also sesame seeds, coconut oil, Shea butter, and castor oil for products such as cosmetics. With regards to Nigeria’s exports destinations, he stated: “We are looking at policies for exporting to India, where there is a demand and very exciting opportunities for these types of products. Then of course countries in the Middle East are looking for good quality meat; the market is quite big at 120,000 carcasses per week.”

Asked about the potential of agriculture to drive economic growth, Chief Ogbeh answered: “We are no longer going to lead the life of a lottery winner, as we did with oil; we are going to lead the life of a producer.” He added: “Nigeria has about 50 million hectares of uncultivated land and massive bodies of water and rivers. We are going to utilize our dams and lakes to make sure we can grow food all year.”

Minister Ogbeh also touched on the participation of the youth to the country’s agricultural sector: “I am particularly grateful to the young people, they are responding beautifully. The average age of our farmers now is about 65 years old, so they do not have long to go. If we can mechanize and invite the younger generations into agriculture that energy hidden in Nigerians that has not been exploited before will come alive. We are very excited about tapping into this.”

He also discussed the Ministry’s measures to educate the public about a healthy and varied diet. Nigerians mainly consume carbohydrates, such as yam and cassava, but they should be aware that many other foods, such as vegetables and fruit, are necessary to their lifespan and immune system: “Our children do not have enough milk, they should be having a pint a day for the brain and the brawn. A world driven by knowledge and intelligence must have people who can respond, invent, and create.”
Lastly, he added that within a couple of years, the world will know and hear about Nigeria’s food and agriculture.
Hon Ogbeh is a Nigerian politician and farmer who served as Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) from 2001 to 2005. In politics, he has held various ministerial positions, before being appointed Minister of Agriculture in November 2015, while maintaining his farming activities.

The Business Year: Nigeria 2018 will be published in 1Q2018 and will feature the insights of about 120 senior executives and government officials across all sectors, obtained through face-to-face interviews in the country. TBY will also feature sector reviews, analyses, focus articles, and contributions from foreign guest speakers. The publication will be widely distributed locally and internationally at major economic forums, investment forums, and conferences across the world, therefore contributing to promoting Nigeria’s investment climate.