By Ovasa Ogaga,
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Audu Ogbeh says Thailand has accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s government of being responsible for the collapse of its seven rice mills as rice importation from the Nigeria fell drastically.
The minister made this known at a meeting of the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and leadership of the Fertiliser Producers and Suppliers of Nigeria (FEPSAN) held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.
The meeting was presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ogbeh said Thailand’s Ambassador to Nigeria made the “accusation’’ when he visited him in February.
According to the minister, the ambassador lamented that the collapse of the rice mills has increased the unemployment rate in his country from 1.2 per cent to 4 per cent.
“Just like two weeks ago, the Ambassador of Thailand came to my office and said to me that we have really dealt with them.
“But I asked what did we do wrong and he said unemployment in Thailand was one of the lowest in the world, 1.2 per cent, it has gone up to four per cent because seven giant rice mills have shut down because Nigeria’s import has fallen by 95 per cent on rice alone.
“So, Mr President we thank you for the support and we thank all the agencies and those of you in the private sector for your resilience,’’ he said.
The minister, however, alerted the nation on what he described as alarming smuggling of fake fertiliser and rice along the western borders of the country.
He, therefore, called on the Federal Government to take drastic measures to check the trend as all previous diplomatic measures had failed to address the menace.
“But one last request Mr President, we have to take one strong measure against our neighbour to the West. The smuggling is really compromising our capacity on our result.
“Too much rice, too much fake fertilizer is still coming across the borders into this country in spite of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we have with them they are not listening.
“Maybe if the Federal Government takes one tough action, they will come and renegotiate the terms because good neighbourliness means reciprocity.
“We can’t be allowing them to survive at our own expense and I believe that we will do something about it,’’ he said.
Ogbeh appealed to FEPSAN to adjust their blending formula using little more micro nutrients for some crops like cocoa, cashew, plantain, banana and others that would soon be revived by his ministry.
The minister noted that the agricultural sector had created millions of jobs for Nigerians in the last two years.
He said: “People may say what they like about jobs. Recently I heard that we lost four million jobs. Nobody has calculated the millions and millions of jobs created on the farms.
“So, this programme as it grows can only make us stronger.
“As soon as more dams and lakes are put in place, you begin to sell fertilizer all year round and not wait for the rainy season alone.’’