**Price of rice to drop November
By Ebitonye Akpodigha
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh, has revealed that farmers in the country would soon be given about 900 million seedlings of high yielding palms.
Mr Audu specifically said the seedlings would be distributed in the coming weeks to boost palm oil production in Nigeria.
Speaking in his office in Abuja on Monday when the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development paid him a visit, the Minister explained that currently, there is 250,000 tons of palm oil shortage to meet local demand, adding that the planed distribution is to meet and surpass the current shortage.
He also stated that the price of rice would begin to fall from November this year, as more Nigerians are responding to the call to return to agriculture, as a result of Government’s policy on importation of rice.
He emphasized that government could not be involved in rice importation, as being speculated in some quarters, adding that his Ministry would not encourage such a thing that would be detrimental to local production.
“We will not encourage rice importation, and there is no way our Ministry or Government can be involved in importing rice, when we are working hard to be self-sufficient in local production. By November, when full scale harvest starts, rice prices will fall,” Mr Audu said.
He further informed that the late passage of this year’s budget had slowed down budget implementation, but however added that capital expenditure has begun, and about N80 billion was waiting to flow into the economy through contracts to be awarded soon.
Mr Ogbeh used the opportunity to call the Senators to impress it on state Governors to encourage agriculture in their states to complement Federal Government’s efforts in the sector.
He said, “You may be surprised to know that only six to seven States in Nigeria are showing enthusiasm in agriculture. Some by nature don’t seem interested, while others just can’t connect with what we are doing at the federal level.”
On his part, Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Heineken Lokpobiri, disclosed that the $22 billion annual food import bill had led to the astronomical rise in the cost of rice and other commodities.