Ogbeh makes case for pro-vitamin A staple crops
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has reiterated support for pro-vitamin A cassava, as a viable option for Nigeria’s quest for food security, saying it is important to prioritize nutrition in agriculture.
The minister also commended the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), for playing a pivotal role in the development of the cassava varieties, currently grown and eaten by over 1.2 million farming households in more than 24 states across Nigeria.
The delivery of the crops in the country is anchored by HarvestPlus Nigeria program, which is working with state partners, to tackle malnutrition, especially Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), as well as, to improve public health.
The minister made the submission at the 2016 edition of National Cassava Summit, with the theme: “Towards A $5b Per Annum Industry Over The Next 5 Years,” organised by the Partnerships Initiative for The Niger Delta (PIND) in Abuja.
Ogbeh, in his address at the summit, said the best way forward for Nigeria’s agricultural sector is for farmers to mechanise their operations and adopt better varieties of commodities they grow. He added that efforts are being made by government to provide credit support to farmers in terms of policies on lending to the sector, noting that he is vehemently making case for single digit interest rate of seven per cent on loans for farmers.
“We have to increase the yield per hectare in our farms. In some places, the yield is 15 tonnes per hectares; in others, it is as low as eight tonnes. We need to target at least 30 tonnes per hectare. In other words, varieties have to change. We need to include pro-vitamin A cassava, which has been developed by IITA, in that exercise.
In his keynote address, the Project Leader, Cassava Weed Management Project, IITA, Dr Alfred Dixon said urbanisation had taken a toll on agriculture in Nigeria, noting that the trend could be reversed through copious investment in developing the value chain of commodities such as cassava, for which Nigeria ought to have a competitive advantage over other countries.
“Cassava is an appropriate commodity to feature in Nigeria’s economic development. Nigeria’s cassava production accounts for 20 per cent of the total global output, but less than one per cent is being exported,” he said.