By Obinna Chima
The Chief Executive Officer of Blaid Farms, Mrs. Ochuko Momoh, has called for increased lending to the agriculture sector in Nigeria.
This, according to her, would enable the country tap from the rich potential that abounds in the sector.
Momoh, whose farm sits on 48 hectares of land in Abuja, said this in an interview with THISDAY recently.
“Agriculture in Nigeria has a lot of potential, but the truth about it is that there are also a lot of restrains. One of the major one is finance.
“Yes, every day we hear in the news that there is agriculture loan, but the process of accessing the loan frustrates you,” she added.
Momoh, who also heads the Blaid Group, pointed out that when entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector tell bankers about their plan, “they look at you as if you don’t know what you are saying and wonder how many years it would take them to recoup their investments.”
“But I keep telling them (bankers) that the thing about agriculture is that the profit comes gradually even if it is small.
“But your focus as a farmer should be that you are feeding people and creating employment. I had this land where Blaid Farm is situated for almost six years, but getting the finance was very frustrating.
She, commended Standard Chartered Bank Nigeria for supporting her organisation, just as she urged other banks in the country to always see value in the agricultural sector.
“So, there is a lot of potential for agriculture in Nigeria. Our agriculture technology is still very backward. The world has gone very far.
“I can categorically say that right now; I am the only farmer that has a hydro tank fish farming system. Most people do pond fish and cat fish, but there are other things to fish. “Of course, when you increase your technology, it helps the population. Blaid Farms actually has a dream of exporting.
“Our dreams are very big and as far as we are concerned, this is just the beginning. We are happy the bank is now seeing value in what we are doing,” she added.
Momoh, maintained that the process of accessing loans through the various agriculture loans being promoted by the government and some of its agencies is too long.
She added: “The process is too long. To get the loan can take you over eight months. Go and find out. It is a long process to get it. Go to the banks to find out how many people have gotten this loan.
“Let the SME operators show you a farm that is existing from funds that were gotten from the agriculture scheme. Sometimes, they tend to support those with one or two hectares. “But such kind of farms cannot feed a village. We are talking about supporting farms that can feed very large number of our population. I tell people that Nigeria would generate more revenue by exporting food than crude oil if we take it seriously.
“Export is another issue in Nigeria. You would not believe that we got markets for our products in Ghana, but we cannot export these products.
“Why can’t we export it? The airlines alone, because these are perishable things – tomatoes, lettuce – and so they must go by air and not by road. First of all, the airline is charging you $1.30 to carry just one item to Ghana, not the United States and not London. That is not bad enough.
“Then all the government taxes you have to pay comes to $2.50. So, to export one kilo of cucumber comes to $3.70. Now, you have not talked about the amount the person that is selling in Ghana is going to clear it with.
“So, to export one kilo of cucumber, we have to pay $3.70. How much is the cucumber? N300.”
Experts Call for Compulsory Travellers’ Insurance
Following the high and frequent cases of road accidents on the nation’s roads, insurance experts have called on the federal government to introduce compulsory insurance cover for all travellers.
One of the Insurance experts, Mr Alex Onyenike, the Managing Director of Top Brackets Insurance Brokers, noted that beside drivers’ carefulness on the wheels, “the need to have compulsory insurance cover for all travellers has become imperative.”
He explained further that the insurance premium should be easily affordable by all passengers and should be built into the ticket cost for all travellers. This, he stressed, would enable the insurance companies to pay “reasonable compensation” to travellers of their families in case of injury or death on the highway, respectively.
Onyenike, an experienced broker emphasised that the onus is on the Ministry of Transportation to introduce a policy that would make the scheme compulsory and easily enforceable by all public transport operators.
“It is only when government makes it compulsory that the law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Road Safety Corps can enforce the policy by checking on the compliance level among drivers of public transportation companies and by implementing it in a way that its adoption is not negotiable by transport operators, just like they implemented the compulsory speed-limit device”, Onyenike said.
Similarly, Mr Olalekan Aluko, an experienced insurance chief, stressed that if the federal government was keen on both reducing highway carnages and also providing some succour to families of accident victims, “the travellers’ insurance scheme is the way to go.”
Aluko, pointed out that major transport companies like Greyhound, National Express, First Group, in the United States of America, have long adopted the policy of travellers’ insurance, pointing out that, “and that is where greater road caution applies,” adding that “if in such climes, travellers’ insurance is taken as a given, then we in Nigeria should embrace it without further delay.”
The insurance experts lamented that incidences of road accidents in Nigeria have become too frequent and incessant thus making the need for insurance cover for passengers an imperative policy, “so that if and when it (accident) happens, there is some reasonable compensation to victims.”