* Nigeria seeks to cut $11 bln food import bill
* Previous promises on agriculture not been met
* Country on track to end rice imports by 2015-minister
By Emma Farge
GENEVA, Jan 24 Nigeria is beating its target to
raise food production, lifting output by 8 million tonnes last
year, in efforts to diversify Africa's second-largest economy
away from a reliance on oil, the agriculture minister said.
President Goodluck Jonathan laid out ambitious targets to
raise food production such as rice and cocoa by 20 million
tonnes within four years after his 2011 election victory.
This would represent an increase of around 15 percent by
2015, based on the latest United Nations data.
In 2012, the first full year since the pledge, the West
African country produced an additional 8.1 million tonnes
compared with a 5 million tonne target, Akinwumi Adesina said.
"Nigeria has no business importing food. We should be a
global power house on food," he said at a round-table discussion
on agriculture in Geneva this week, ahead of meetings with
investors at the Davos conference.
Africa's most populous nation was a major exporter of palm
oil and cocoa in the 1960s but production has slumped as the
country has instead shifted its economy towards the oil sector,
which accounts for 80 percent of government revenues.
Since an oil boom in the 1970s, a series of administrations
have promised to support the agricultural sector to boost
employment and alleviate poverty but policy has been
inconsistent and lacked commitment.
Poor infrastructure, corruption and mismanagement mean most
farming remains at a subsistence level. Nigeria spends around
$11 billion on food imports annually, Adesina said.
Nigeria, the world's second largest rice importer according
to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is on track to end
imports of rice and double cocoa production to 500,000 tonnes by
2015, Adesina added, but gave no specific update on the progress
of meeting these targets, which were first set in mid-2011.
"We have launched an aggressive rice production programme to
make us self-sufficient in rice and we put in place incentives
for private sector to produce rice locally and it's working," he
told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.
He said Nigeria had built 14 new rice mills in 2012 with a
capacity to produce 250,000 tonnes.
Adesina said private sector investment in agriculture was $8
billion in 2012, without citing a figure for 2011.
(Editing by Joe Brock and James Jukwey)