By Obike Ukoh
The Federal Government plans to tackle post-harvest losses put at nine billion dollars annually through multiple approaches, including setting up of staple crops processing zones.
Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agriculture, made the disclosure on Thursday in Abuja, at a stakeholders’ conference organised by Akassa Development Foundation (ADF).
Akassa is a community in Bayelsa in the southernmost part of Nigeria.
The theme of the stakeholders’ conference is: “ Sustainable Development and Security in the Niger Delta beyond Oil.’’
The minister, represented by Eniye Amloakederem, Senior Technical Adviser on Agric-business, listed the approaches to include-storage, development of cold chains, improving infrastructure, improving product handling, among others.
He said that staple crops processing zones would be set up in “ areas of high food production.’’
According to the minister, the government will utilise fiscal and infrastructure incentives to attract private food manufacturing companies to add value to agricultural produce.
Lokpobiri said that all the investments were structured around smallholder farmers, to ensure inclusion of models that would create wealth and boost development.
He challenged the people of the Niger Delta region to engage in agriculture as the region has the largest wetland with arable land for agriculture.
He said that the area is also suitable for commercial production of varieties of crops, including rice, cassava, yam, okro, ogbonno, cocoyam, maize, pepper, plantain, among others.
He commended the ADF for sustaining community development in Akassa.
Mr Nsima Ekere, Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), who spoke at the event, stressed the need to embrace agriculture as a tool to tackle hunger and insecurity in the Niger Delta.
He said that agriculture, in which the people of the Niger Delta have founded their core preoccupation, “presents the strongest and most rewarding options to fighting poverty and facilitating sustainable development.’’
He said that agriculture “worked great wonders in countries such as Mexico, India and China,’’ adding that Bayelsa alone has the capacity to feed the nation.
“ A World Bank study shows that Bayelsa is capable of producing enough rice to feed Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
“ How can we exploit these opportunities to fight poverty, which is at the core of continual agitation in the land?
“ It is vital to note that tackling and defeating poverty is essential to the urgent need to boost security in the region or in any society,’’ Ekere said.