Nigeria’s government has announced plans to recapitalise and re-engineer the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) to enable farmers secure financing at singledigit interest rate.
Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo who stated this at the official launch of the new roadmap on agriculture “The Green Alternative” says it is a determined move to boost agriculture as part of government’s diversification strategy.
The Vice President says the current double-digit interest rate and reluctance by commercial banks to lend to agriculture, make development of an alternative model for financing the sector in the short term necessary.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Anchor Borrower programme has been useful and had recorded huge successes in local rice and wheat production through the provision of loans at single digit,” he added.
According to the Vice President, The “Green Alternative: the Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020” is a four-year blueprint on growing the sector and repositioning agriculture for economic transformation.
Prof Osinbajo says, one of the most critical component of the plan was to position agriculture as arrow-head of its recovery efforts as the sector would not only be revived to achieve food security but also have the capacity to produce and export to earn foreign exchange.
“There’s no question at all that if we get agriculture right, we will get our economy right,” he said.
He added that the roadmap identified the inability to meet domestic requirements which is more of productivity challenge as well as inability to export at levels required or market success adding that the Green Alternatives will solve the challenges.
He said “You cannot have a policy of encouraging local production of food and on the other hand, have a high tariff on imported agricultural equipment.”
“There’s no way we can do the scale of agricultural production both for domestic consumption and export without ensuring locally improved seedling development alongside those that we import.”
He also encouraged the work of the agency of the ministries of science and technology who have been making great breakthroughs in local development of agricultural equipment.”
Osinbajo said as part of the 500,000 teachers that federal government plans to recruit, about 100,000 will be trained as extension workers for the farms.
He commended the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, for what he described as his unbridled advocacy for a new policy on agriculture and for also spearheading the policy development within a short period.
The Minister of Agriculture, said the document was not entirely new as it was built upon the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the previous administration.
He said adjustment would be made to the policy where necessary and expressed confidence that with the recent interventions, “It won’t be long before we begin to cruise to reasonable altitude as the Federal government would work with state governments to put over 200 dams across the country into use.
He added that stakeholders would now be expected to use only duly certified fertilizers by government as well as adhere to advisory of soil conditions for bumper yields.
The federal government has already invested massively in soil mapping/testing aimed at increasing crop yields, and adequate security arrangement has being put in place to shield local and foreign investors into agriculture from the snares of armed robbery and kidnapping.
The new policy targets three key pillars including productivity enhancements, crowding in private sector investment and institutional strengthening/realignment.
The key objectives is to grow the agricultural sector to between 6 and 12 per cent annually; doubling agricultural household incomes in 6 to 12 years and integrating agricultural commodity value chains into the broader supply chain.
Other immediate targets are to drive job growth and wealth creation as well as ensuring enhanced capacity for foreign exchange earnings.
The six focal areas of intervention include institutional setting and roles, youth and women, infrastructure, research and innovation, and food and national security as well as climate smart agriculture.
He said currently, government’s drive towards food security is in progress particularly for rice, maize, sorghum, millet, wheat, and animal products and tomato paste.
The minister added that the new policy will also require all undergraduates in tertiary institutions to own farms on campus and would further educate people on how to keep bees which are critical for pollination of farm produce particularly tomatoes.