Abimbola Akosile in Lagos and Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, has said the Senate will intervene with legislations and other policies aimed at saving the nationâ€™s poultry farmers from unfair competition by smugglers of imported products, lack of access to cheap funds and unfriendly policies which inhibit their growth.
Saraki, who was speaking at the weekend during a tour of Shonga Commercial Farms project in Edu Local Government Area in the northern part of Kwara State where displaced Zimbabwean farmers now operate on a large scale in Nigeria, said the Senate will do everything it has to do to help big and small time poultry farmers to survive so that they can contribute to the plan by the country to achieve self-sufficiency in food production.
Saraki also lamented that over one million tonnes of poultry products and riceÂ are being smuggled out of the country every year. He however said the senate has resolved to ensure that saboteurs do not frustrate the progress recorded so far in the agricultural sector in the country.
Accompanied on the trip by Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed; Senator Abdullahi Adamu who is Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture and Senator representing Kwara North District, Senator Shaba Lafiagi, the Senate President said there was no reason for Nigerian poultry farmers not to take over the West African sub-regional market and supply it with quality products from Nigeria.
He congratulated the owners of the Valentine Chicken, which now produce 4,000 birds per day for their belief in Nigeria which made them to invest millions of dollars in a rural area in Nigeria and employing over one thousand locals who now have the opportunity to learn new methods from the foreign farmers, in a statement issued and signed by the Special Adviser (Media and Publicity) to the Senate President, Yusuph Olaniyonu.
â€œWhat we have seen here is impressive. The massive hatchery, breeding and abattoir and the level of technology employed at the various levels show that the poultry industry is a big sector which we must pay attention to. The Senate will work to save the sector against all the factors militating against its growth.
â€œWe know that apart from providing cheap protein for our people and earning foreign exchange for us, we can also use the poultry industry to develop allied areas like maize and soya beans farming so as to supply feeds for the birds. What we have been told is that all the maize and soya beans grown in Kwara State is not sufficient to feed the Valentine Poultry feed mills. Our people can earn more money by increasing production as they are sure of ready marketâ€, he said.
In his response to the briefing by Mr. Peit Dutoit of Valentine Chicken on the challenges the farmers face in their business, Emefiele said the apex bank will support the farmers with N2 billion agriculture loan facility at nine per cent interest rate to support their expansion plan.
The CBN Governor, who expressed satisfaction at what he described as the magic of a â€œgenuine foreign direct investmentâ€, said what he witnessed during the tour of the farm was an eye-opener and an indication that several opportunities abound in the Shonga Farms venture which could produce a value chain that can be tapped into for the benefit of the national economy.
He praised the farmers for their belief in Nigeria as demonstrated in their desire to invest and stay in a remote part of the country. Emefiele also commended the Kwara State government for its initiative and called on other states to emulate the Kwara Commercial Agriculture model, as a way of diversifying the economy and providing job opportunities.
He said the Shonga Farms was a practical example of how governments can collaborate with the private sector to deliver real dividends of democracy such as jobs and prosperity to the people.
Governor Ahmed expressed gratitude to the CBN governor and the Senate President who he described as pioneer of commercial farming in Kwara State for the visit and the support for agriculture in the state.
He said the state government has establishedÂ an Off-taker Demand Driven Scheme based on the lessons learnt from the Shonga model as a means of empowering farmers,Â creating jobs and establishing Kwara State as a major agriculture hub in the country.