James Emejo and Chukwuemeka Maduagwuna in Abuja
In a landmark initiative, the Managing Director/Chief Executive, Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL), Mr. Aliyu Abdulhameed, yesterday announced the commencement of an innovative scheme which would allow for the movement of cattle from the northern parts of the country to markets in the southern region by rail.
This is expected to douse the frequent tension among herdsmen and farmers who clash on regular basis over destruction of farmlands by the herds, a situation that has led to wanton destruction of lives and property across the country.
It is further projected to reduce the cost of transporting agricultural produce from the North to the South by over 20 per cent, minimise wastage and spoilage of goods in transit by over 40 per cent in order to preserve value so that farmers get good price for their produce at the destination markets.
The ‘Market to Farm’ initiative is expected to boost job creation and reduce the cost of some food staples in the market. The movement by rail is expected to begin this week.
The scheme which is being operated under a partnership arrangement with Connect Rail Services, a bulk freight and logistics service provider, will also aid the transportation of tomatoes, vegetables and other perishable food items by rail within the next few months.
Speaking at the a media briefing in Abuja, he said:”The launch of the ‘Farm to Market’ scheme is a tribute to the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari who made agriculture a central component of the federal government’s economic response to the steep and long standing fall in the global price of oil. NIRSAL’s mandate can best be understood within the context of the policy shift and clear commitment of the presidency to agriculture.”
According to him, the scheme will reduce pressure on foreign exchange and the depreciation of the country’s road network due to concentration of haulage activities on the road.
He said the scheme is line with NIRSAL’s mandate to fix the agricultural value chains and create links between primary producers and the market as well as leverage private sector financing towards the provision of necessary state of the art equipment, storage and agric produce preservation facilities to ensure safe and efficient movement of agric produce from farms in the North to markets in the South.
About three weeks ago, as part of a test run of the historic initiative, cows were transported from Jebba to Lagos by rail within two days in a journey that usually took several days by road. The arrival of the cattle in much better condition than herded cattle generated excitement at Oko-Oba, Lagos.
The formal launch of the scheme is expected to take place in Gusau, Sokoto, with the movement of cattle to Lagos.
Abdulhameed also praised the leadership of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, and the active support of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Audu Ogbeh, for the success.
He cautioned however, that NIRSAL only guarantees serious The managing director projects which are bankable in terms of proven business viability, of strategic economic relevance to the country and promotes inclusive growth and equitable distribution of value so that farmers and other players get better rewards for their efforts.
He said:“We take our mandate very seriously indeed and NIRSAL does not guarantee financing for unserious or poorly thought out projects. We ensure that every kobo committed to every project we undertake counts for the economy and the people of this country.”
Also speaking at the occasion, the Chief Executive, Connect Rail Services, Mr. Edeme Kelikume, said: ”We are proud to be partners with NIRSAL on this historic scheme that will take advantage of the low cost rail transport system to move agricultural produce. As the leading indigenous bulk freight and logistics solutions provider we will commit our expertise and experience to ensuring that this scheme is a success”.
Connect Rail is the technical partner to NIRSAL on the project.
The movement of cattle is only the first component of NIRSAL’s “Farm to Market” flagship programme designed to boost value and efficiencies across the agricultural value chain to market-focused food production and achieve greater equity so that farmers and other agricultural producers get more reward for their efforts.