James Emejo in Abuja
The Nigerian Incentive Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) in collaboration with the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC) yesterday inaugurated a unique scheme to move grains from the northern part of the country to markets, industrial zones and ports in the South.
In the first stage of the initiative, a consignment of 800 tonnes of soyabeans left Funtua, Katsina State for Apapa port, Lagos after a brief ceremony from where it will be loaded onto ships for exports.
The Managing Director of NIRSAL, Aliyu Abbati Abdulhameed, at the ceremony, said the scheme was in line with the focus of the federal government on making agriculture a key anchor of economic diversification.
According to him, the scheme would help to drastically reduce the cost of transportation of grains, enhance the income of small holder farmers, boost exports and preserve scarce foreign exchange in line with the agricultural promotion policy of the Buhari administration.
He said: “It is our hope that this scheme will reduce the cost of transporting grains from the north to the south by over 20 per cent, boost local production, boost exports and help to conserve scarce foreign exchange.
“This will no doubt result in wealth creation for small holder farmers of those produce, job creation, inclusive economic growth, diversification of national revenue and GDP amongst other benefits in line with the Agricultural Promotion Policy (APP) of the Buhari administration.”
However, the grains by rail initiative is another dimension of the transport segment of the NIRSAL’s Farm-to-Market Scheme which was flagged off last year with the historic movement of cattle by rail from Gusau, Zamfara State and Nguru, Yobe State to Lagos.
NIRSAL’s role in the grains by rail project is to facilitate bank finance for the purchase of necessary equipment through the provision of necessary bank guarantees, provision of insurance cover for goods being moved, and creation of all relevant linkages.
The scheme, which is in partnership with Connect Rail Services would further serve to reduce cost of transportation, increase profit margins for farmers and provide a smooth link between exporters of agric produce and the local farmers who cultivate the grains in the North.
On his part, the Chairman, Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Usman Abubakar, expressed delight at the take-off of the scheme and commended the NIRSAL management for accepting to play the very important role of facilitating bank financing of logistical elements which are critical for the smooth operations of the scheme.
He said: “The NRC is happy to work with NIRSAL and Connect Rail Services to get this project off the ground. This project is especially good for the country in this time of recession because it will link farmers in the north to markets in the south and exports, help reduce high food prices while at the same time helping farmers get good value for their produce. It is a project that works for the people and complements the efforts of government to diversify the economy. We are indeed happy to be a part of it.”
In a statement, Coordinator, Research and Strategy, NIRSAL, Bello Abdullahi Abba, said the focus of the agency was on enabling a structured, sustainable and business oriented approach to agriculture that could stand the country in good stead in the emerging post oil Nigerian economy.