Your Excellency Mr. President, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Y.E., Mr. Vice President, Arc. NamadiSambo, the Chairman Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Anenih, the Chairman of the PDP, Y.E. Alh. Muazu, Excellencies the State Governors, Members of the Federal Executive Council, the young, dynamic and future leaders of Nigeria, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Today is the culmination of our search for a new generation of young commercial farmers who will take Nigeria’s agriculture to even greater heights. For we must change the labor composition of the agricultural sector from the currently rapidly aging population, to a younger generation.
That search began three years ago when Mr. President launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda. The idea was simple, yet powerful: do a structural reform and transformation of the agricultural sector and unlock the potential of agriculture to diversify Nigeria’s economy.
John Scully once said “The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious”. Mr. President you saw well ahead. Like a sailor who sees an iceberg ahead and takes a strategic move to avoid it by changing directions early, you repositioned the agricultural sector.
Today, our e wallet system has reached 14 million farmers, and we have their names and locations. Nigeria is the first in the world to develop and use e-wallet to deliver farm input at scale and several African countries are learning from us. The agriculture sector has changed, Nigeria is now export transparency.
Food production has risen massively and as a nation we have produced an additional 21 million MT of food within the last 3 years. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, food imports declined from N 1.1 trillion ($ 6.7 billion) in 2009 to N 684 billion ($4.35 billion) in 2013 and continues to decline. Because we have increased local food production and reduced our food importation, at a time of falling oil prices and devaluation, the prices of food have been relatively stable. Agriculture has created the buffer to safeguard the economy in these hard times.
Agriculture is now an exciting sector. Today major local and international investors are investing in this new agriculture sector, with $5.6 billion in investments. The number of seed companies alone has risen from 5 to 80 within three years. And the banks are lending to the sector more than ever before.
The latest release by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that the agricultural sector grew by 9.19% (year-on-year) in Q 3 of 2014, up by 2.7% points from Q3 of 2013. The agricultural sector grew by 38.53% between 3rd and 4th quarters of 2014, with crop production being the main driver, with a growth of 43.5%.
So, when you think of the new Nigerian agriculture sector, think of endless possibilities!
We are delighted that the agriculture sector is so attractive today that the likes of Dangote are investing $1 billion (N 165 billion) into rice production and processing. But we must develop the future Dangotes in the agricultural sector. This is why Mr President decided we must design the Youth Employment in Agriculture Program (YEAP).
So what will YEAP do? YEAP will develop a new cadre of 740,000 market-oriented young agricultural producers in rural areas. These will be school leavers and rural youth leaders and there will be 20,000 of them per state of the federation. YEAP will also develop 18,500 university graduates who will be formed into young agribusiness entrepreneurs called “nagropreneurs”. They will develop businesses along the entire agricultural value chains, from the farm, storage, processing and value addition, financial services and logistics. Together with the presidential schools initiative, we will connect the young school children in agriculture to the Nagropreneurs, and they will grow to become the new millionaires and billionaires of Nigeria.
We will support them with access to technical, entrepreneurial, finance, business and marketing skills. They will also be provided with access to land and linked to major agribusinesses to provide markets and mentorship. We will work with all the States across the Federation to unleash the passion, drive and entrepreneurship of our youth for agriculture.
Mr President, you don’t talk much, but you do much. You supported us to set up the Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) which you are launching today.
Today, your vision has become a reality. For this new generation of nagropreneurs will be making decisions, not under trees, but in their board rooms.
Therefore, let me welcome you to the new agriculture space of Nigeria. As the price of crude oil plummets, I am convinced that the new currency for Nigeria will be agriculture, not just oil and gas. Agriculture will become Nigeria’s new oil. For agriculture was Nigeria’s past and in agriculture as a business lies Nigeria’s greater future for inclusive growth.
Our dear Mr. President, the farmers’ President, these young nagropreneurs of Nigeria appreciate you. You found them. You nurtured them. They know Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the president for Nigeria’s youth. For Nigeria’s millions of youth, you are the inspirational President for the future that is just ahead of us!
Now Mr. President, please sit back, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Meet and hear the voices of your nagropreneurs! Today you are in a green bow tie: you are so cool Mr. President. And agriculture is cool!
Thank you very much and welcome!