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Agric loan: Farmers applaud FG over one-digit interest

By on September 8, 2013

The age of high interest rate might soon be over for farmers, as the Federal Government approves a grant of N15 billion to the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) for farmers at a single digit interest rate for the 2013 farming season.

Farmers had pleaded with President Goodluck Jonathan at the 19th edition of the National Economic Summit themed ‘Growing Agriculture as a Business to Diversify Nigeria’s economy’ to intervene in the banking sector and help reduce interest rate to less than five per cent for farmers.

However, their joy knew no bound when Vice President Nnamdi Sambo announced at the close of the summit that the President privatised the BOA to unbundle it and make available cheaper funds for agricultural development

“The President has approved the grant of N15 billion to the agricultural bank to be provided to our farmers for the 2013 farming season at one-digit interest rate,” said Vice President added.

Sambo noted that in line with the administration’s drive to redefine agriculture as a business and make it more competitive, the government is committed to diversifying the economy to create wealth and jobs.

“The face of agriculture has changed in this country, and it is refreshing. Agriculture is no longer a development programme; it is now a business. In the transformation of our agriculture, we are taking the full value chain approach, from the farm to the table. As we grow agriculture, non-farm income and employment opportunities will develop, through multiplier effects in the local economy,” he said.

A representative of the farmers, Yemisi Iranloye, said efforts at growing productivity in the agriculture sector were hampered by the high interest rates on loans by banks, which range between nine and 22 per cent.

Mrs. Iranloye, who underlined the need for government support for farmers who are ready and committed to engage in productive activities to boost their capacity, also asked the Federal Government to prevail on the banks to relax their strict enforcement of conditions, as most small-scale farmers in the rural areas have been denied access to loans as a result of stringent conditions.

However, President Goodluck Jonathan assured the farmers that government was doing all within its capacity to remove the bottlenecks militating against the productivity of farmers, saying the provision of basic infrastructure was receiving priority attention as a way of cutting cost of transportation and distribution, which are responsible for the high cost of agricultural products in the country.

He said the Federal Government was currently working with the African Development Bank (ADB) to construct the trans-regional road from Lagos to Dakar, to facilitate the easy movement of agricultural products within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) region.

The President said that with the ongoing privatisation exercise in the power sector, government was ready to provide adequate electricity to help farmers in the operations.

“We will work very hard as a government to provide the necessary infrastructure to create the right environment for the farmers to operate,” the President said.

“Power generation, transmission and distribution are key priorities. Without power, one cannot talk about agriculture. That is why the government has fast-tracked the privatisation of the power generation and distribution companies, which is almost being concluded. Immediately that is completed, power would take a life of its own. The revolution in the telecom sector will soon happen in the power sector.”

On sustainability of successful agricultural policies in the country, the President said although no government could guarantee that its successor would continue to implement the policies exactly the way it left, his administration had opted to focus on building and strengthening institutions rather than individuals as a way out of the problem.

“We are not building individuals, but institutions, to ensure sustainability of government policies in the agriculture sector,” the President said.

He commended the youth who are now shifting away from the mindset that agriculture is a “simple poverty-alleviation programme” and encouraged them “to begin to think that agriculture can make you have your own private jet.”

President of FADAMA farmers, Ifako-Ijaiye in Lagos, Bankole Adeniyi, said the government has taken a right step for the first time in the interest of Nigerian farmers.

He expressed hope that the government’s goodwill will be beneficiary to all farmers across the country, especially rural farmers who are in need of the fund.



[Daily Independent]