Osinbajo Promises Farmers Access to Affordable Loans, Equipment

0
Yemi Osinbajo
  • Security key to achieving global competitiveness in agriculture, says W’Bank

James Emejo in Abuja

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo Thursday said the federal government was committed to facilitating increased credit to farmers at affordable interest rate.

He said the government would also ensure that farmers have access to mechanised agriculture and affordable production inputs in a determined move to spike the growth of the sector and sustain development.

Speaking in Abuja at the 2019 Agriculture Summit Africa with the theme: “Agriculture – Your Piece of the Trillion Dollar Economy,” organised by Sterling Bank Plc, the Vice President said government was also committed to promoting foreign and local partnerships to advance the present level of trade and investments in the sector as a veritable strategy for economic diversification.

Represented by the Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hon. Mustapha Baba-Shehuri, Osinbajo said the present administration would facilitate the review of the Land Act and land tenure system as well as implement the agro-rangers project to secure lives and properties of farmers.

This came as the Managing Director/Chief Executive, Sterling Bank Plc, Mr. Abubakar Suleiman, disclosed that the bank had spent over N55 billion over seven years to boost the production of three major crops, invested in human resources as well as established partnerships which have opened up the agricultural sector.

Osinbajo specifically commended the bank for using the summit to create a convergence of private and public sector players, investors and agricultural practitioners across the entire value chain.

He said:”I want to sincerely commend the consistency, commitment and innovativeness of the management of Sterling Bank Plc in their desire to parley with the federal government to diversify the economy through agriculture as the mainstay and cash cow of the nation’s economy.”

He noted that this year’s theme had been inspired by a projection by the World Bank that the agricultural sector would exceed $1 trillion within a decade and would face debate on key issues around access to capital by investors across the value chain, access to electricity, better technology and digitization method as well as irrigated land to grow high-value nutritious food.

The Vice President said the present administration is committed to getting every Nigerian into agriculture in order to develop an export-led economy, adding that the government’s agenda was to guarantee the vibrancy of the sector and ensure that agriculture is seen as business and haven for investment.

Meanwhile, Suleiman said the aim of the summit centred on food security.

According to him, “Let me remind all of us that there is no civilisation that we know of today that did not start by dealing with good security.

“What we call civilisation is what happens to you after you are able to provide for the basic needs of your people. It is after that you start to direct your energy and effort toward all other things.

“Unfortunately for us in Africa, we have not done a good job of providing those basic needs. And it is not for a lack of resources, in fact – Africa holds the largest reserves of arable farmland that is under construction today. And obviously, it is not a lack of human resources. We talk about the unemployment crisis we face in Africa. The problem we face more than anything else is a question of productivity.”

He said Nigeria must be able to boost its productivity in order to be competitive on the continent, adding that without such an edge “our farmers will only be struggling.”

The managing director said the challenge, more than ever, was for the country to begin to think irrespective of the rules in place that farmers could compete globally.

He said: “So all of the available talent, the technology, the progress that we have made in all of the sciences – it is time for us to bring it into agriculture to finally solve the problem of agriculture productivity because without solving it, the problem of national development is something that we cannot even begin to tackle.”

However, in his keynote address, Senior Agriculture Economist in World Bank, Dr. Adetunji Oredipe, pointed out that socio-political peace, economic stability, and food security remained essential for the development of any great nation.

He said while the greatest and most significant resource of any group of people are human beings, “a hungry, poor, and war-threatened group of people are incapable of accelerating economic development and are incapable of competing on the global front for positive ideas, creativity, or innovation.”

He said in order to achieve the transformation of the agricultural sector and effectively claim a significant share of the $1 trillion market, government must effectively effect a structural change in the labour composition of the sector from the current status.

The World Bank economist said for the country to maintain its share of the continent’s agriculture GDP by 2030, Nigeria would need to grow its agriculture sector revenues by a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.7 per cent, adding that to achieved this, national agriculture budget to GDP would have to be sustained by at least seven per cent annually.

Oredipe, among other things, emphasised that the current farming population is ageing rapidly and is unable to meet the increasingly complex challenges of markets and technology.

He noted that to feed the rising population well into the future, the country would need young commercial farmers.

According to him, “With its vast agricultural potential, Africa’s food and beverage markets are projected to reach $1 trillion by 2030. According to the Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness report, ‘Africa’s food systems, currently valued at $313 billion a year from agriculture, could triple if governments and business leaders radically rethink their policies and support for agriculture, farmers, and agribusinesses.

“This trio account for nearly 50 per cent of Africa’s economic activity’. A commitment to boost agriculture, farmers and agribusinesses potentially offers a three-fold increase, namely: increased job opportunities which create greater prosperity, less hunger, and accelerated progress for African farmers to compete globally.

“These anticipated rewards and positive changes will only happen if Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses undoubtedly can receive expanded access to more capital outlays, uninterrupted electricity, modernised technology and well-irrigated land areas to cultivate high-value nutritious foods.

“For Nigeria, it is a great window of opportunity to harness the countless opportunities that exist in the agricultural value chain towards building a sustainable economy thereby creating hope for realising our much-desired national development and sustained food security.”

The Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (ERGP), the current plan aimed at fashioning growth in the years 2017-2020, was developed to restore economic growth and lay the foundations for long-term structural change. The ERGP recognises that non-oil productive sectors like agriculture and agro-allied industries (the agri-food sector) play a significant role in economic development, economic growth, and job creation.

“More importantly, the pride of any government is the attainment of higher level of development in such a way that its citizens would derive natural attachment to governance.”

Continuing, he noted that “the gap between the developed and the developing countries is not static or narrow but is continually widening.

“The problem of unplanned staggering urban population, rural stagnation and devastation, spiraling unemployment and growing inequalities continue to face less-developed countries, among which Nigeria is one. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to more than half of the extremely poor people of the world.

“In fact, the number of poor people in the region has recently increased by nine million, with 413 million people living on less than US$1.90 a day in 2015. If the trend continues unabated, by 2030, nearly nine out of 10 extreme poor will be in Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank, 2018).”