16 December 2014, Abuja – President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday said the sharp decrease in oil prices did not meet the Federal Government by surprise.
He said for over three years, his administration had been designing and implementing Agricultural Transformation Agenda in order to serve as a buffer.
Jonathan spoke during the official launch of the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme and the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria, held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The N37billion YEAP, a component of the ATA, is designed to raise a new cadre of young farmers and agribusiness leaders in Nigeria with the initial target of reaching up to 760,000 youths over five years.
With $100million capitalisation target, FAFIN on the other hand is targeted at increasing financing to Nigeria’s small and medium enterprises in agriculture.
Describing the agriculture sector as vital for the nation’s economy, Jonathan said the recent decline in the price of oil further underscored the need for the diversification of Nigeria’s economy.
He said, “The recent decline in the price of crude oil further underscores the necessity to rapidly diversify our economy away from dependency on crude oil.
“By producing our own food, we will save scarce foreign exchange, reduce dependence on food imports, while reviving our rural areas and creating wealth for our farmers
“The decline in the price of crude oil did not take us by surprise.
“For the past three years, we had been engaged on a carefully designed and implemented agricultural transformation agenda.
“Our massive food production efforts, which led to the production of 21 million metric tons of food in the past three years, has created a buffer and mitigated the impact of the devaluation on food prices.”
The President observed that the nation’s food import bill declined from N1.1 trillion in 2009 to N624 billion by December of 2013 and had continued to decline.
He noted that the electronic wallet system, which allows government to reach farmers with subsidised seeds and fertilizers via mobile phones, had become the backbone of a more modern agricultural sector.
According to him, over 14 million farmers had received their subsidised farm inputs through the e-wallet system.
Jonathan further disclosed that over $5.6 billion of new private sector investments had also come into the agricultural sector, showing that local and foreign businesses see Nigeria’s agricultural sector as very viable for investments.