The President of the Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, has inaugurated its 8,000-hectare Rice Out-growers’ Scheme in Hadejia, Jigawa State, with the distribution of rice seedlings to farmers, as part of his partnership with governments at all levels to reduce food imports.
According to a statement by the group, the scheme, which is part of its partnership with government at all levels has the potential to provide 10,000 direct and indirect jobs for various scheme dependents.
This 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 on another.
Alhaji Dangote at the inauguration reminded Nigerians that Nigeria depended on agriculture for economic development before the discovery of oil, noting that oil was meant to complement agriculture but sadly the nation abandoned agriculture 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 government.
He lamented that the Nigerian agricultural commodities and food imports’ bill had averaged over N1tn in the past two years, with items such as sugar, wheat, rice and 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 disclosed that presently the country needs 6.8 million metric tons of rice annually for consumption, but that “we are locally producing only 2.6 million metric tons.”
In view of this, the federal government has come up with plans to encourage massive investment in rice production and agricultural sector in general to end rice importation by the year 2018.
According to him, under the Dangote Rice Out-growers Scheme, farmers will be given training and other necessary inputs with guaranteed buy-back at agreed prices. He disclosed that the Dangote Rice Outgrowers Scheme has been designed as a one-stop solution for the rice value chain.
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The Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heneiken Lokpobiri, excited at the Dangote initiative, commended Dangote for his intervention in the government efforts at providing food security for the citizenry, creating jobs and reducing dependency on food importation.
The Minister stated that the Federal Government was ready to support the scheme and make it a success and is putting in place a strategy that will make farmers have greater access to farm implements to help them produce with ease.
The Jigawa State governor, Alhaji Badaru Abubakar, also thanked Dangote Rice Limited for choosing the state as a pilot for the project and pledged the readiness of his administration to provide the needed support.
Alhaji Abubakar said he had no doubt that the project would succeed in turning around the economy of the state, noting that the company’s exploits in other sectors such as cement, sugar, and lately, oil and gas, was an indication that Jigawa was lucky to host the Dangote rice scheme.
The governor reiterated that the project was part of his government’s commitment to improve agriculture and industrialize the state for job creation and poverty eradication.
In his words,
Right from my inaugural speech, I made it clear that, agriculture was one of my government cardinal points and we are ready to collaborate with private investors in achieving the desire goals.
The governor said,
The project we are launching today is one of the numerous projects we intend to embark in collaboration with private investors from within and outside the country, and we have already signed memorandum with many of them.