The Federal Government says it is considering a low interest lending rate regime for farmers in the country
President Goodluck Jonathan said this on Tuesday in Abuja at the 19th National Economic Summit and the inauguration of the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP).
The Tide reports that the programme seeks to eliminate the constraints to youth participation in agro business in the country.
The theme of the 19th Economic Summit is, “Growing Agriculture as a Business to Diversify Nigeria’s Economy’’.
A team headed by the Finance Minister is working on how government will link up with the private sector and the Central Bank to make sure that farmers get loans at very low interest rate.
The president commended the effort of the Central Bank of Nigeria in extending its lending to the agric sector, assuring that government would continue to develop innovative financing mechanism to make agricultural lending more affordable.
Jonathan, who also inaugurated the young Nigerian farmers at the summit, applauded the effort of the youth who ventured into agriculture out of interest.
I am convinced that agriculture as a business holds a bright future for our country, especially for the youth. “Unemployment among our youths is one of the biggest challenges; the time has come to create jobs and laid a good foundation for Nigeria’s economic growth, he said.
There is a need to get younger farmers, especially young graduates and school leavers, to take on agriculture as a business.
“I am excited that a lot of young people now see agriculture as a viable business opportunity; the panel of young business men and women that we just listened to has clearly demonstrated that the future of Nigerian agriculture is indeed bright. In order to encourage our young people, and to create a NEW cadre of young, dynamic and entrepreneurial commercial farmers in agro business, the Minister Agriculture has developed YEAP,’’ he said.
According to him, the programme over the next five years will see the emergence of young graduates and school leavers across the geo political zones into commercial farming and agro business.
“They will be called NAGROPRENEURS; these people through their businesses will create jobs for hundreds of thousands of Nigerian youths. To these young people, I say, you are the leaders of tomorrow and your leadership in training starts from today,’’ he said.
The president urged youths in the country to key into the opportunity to develop their skills and become commercial agro dealers in all areas of agriculture.
He said that administration would revolutionalised the sector, adding that ‘’days are gone when farmers are seen as poor people in the society.’’
Jonathan said that government would continue to accept recommendations from the summit group to help boost the economy, adding that a framework had been created for the National Planning Commission to forward such recommendations to the Federal Executive Council for implementation by Ministries, Department and Agencies.
The president said that the objective of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda was to turn about 20 million metric tonnes of food to the domestic food supply and to create about 3. 5 million jobs for the young people.
He said that the goal of government was to use agriculture as the spring board for Nigeria’s industrialisation.
Jonathan said that the rice revolution in 10 states in the dry season was a demonstration that if the farmers were well supported, they could feed the whole nation and beyond.
“Our target is to become self-sufficient in rice production by 2015 and 2016,’’ he said.
IITA Develops New Potato Variety
Empowering, Novel, Agri-Business Led, Employment, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (ENABLE TAAT) has recently developed Orange Fleshed Sweet Potato (OFSP) species to tackle malnutrition and reduce diabetes in Africa.
The ENABLE TAAT Field Trainer of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Mr Murtalab Adedamola, made this known in Ibadan yesterday.
He said that the development of the potato species was one of the plans of IITA, aimed at combating malnutrition and attaining food security in Africa. Adedamola said that OFSP was different from the Irish potato, adding that it contained a lot of water, Vitamin A, high carotene and low level of sugar. “It has two varieties – King J and Mothers’ Delight, and it can be used for baking cake, snacks and bread.
“It is stress-free, its cultivation cycle is within three months; it is not a tuber but a root and it does not go deep into the soil like cassava.
“The growth continues even after harvesting, it is good for children and diabetic patients because of its low level of sugar. Farmers can plant a hectare with just 500kg. vines of OFSP, which multiplies.
“They should cut the vines together, bundle them together, weigh them and then plant them. Farmers can plant at a depth of 20 or 25 cm and at an angle of 45 degrees because the spacing can determine the yield,” he said. Adedamola advised farmers to always apply MPK fertiliser to the crop after two weeks of planting, as the exercise would go a long way to improve the yield if the crop had access to water. The field trainer said that the maintenance of an OFSP farm would not require much weeding, adding that the soil would crack while its flowers would shoot out to signal the appropriate time for harvesting. He, however, warned that the King J variety of OFSP was better grown in the northern parts of the country, while the cultivation of the Mothers’ Delight type would thrive in the South.
“In Cameroon, we have four varieties of OFSP and in Cote d’Ivoire, there are six varieties. Farmers are planting it already but the produce lacks market because people are not aware of its numerous benefits. “When people learn about its benefits, they will start patronising the farmers well; we will definitely have more varieties of it in Nigeria because it is a crop that can transform the livelihood of potato farmers perfectly,’’ he added.
Assembly Approves N1.5bn Agric Loan
The Niger State House of Assembly has passed a resolution granting approval to the state government to access a N1.5bn facility for the implementation of the Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS).
The House passed the resolution yesterday following the presentation of the report of Joint Committees on Finance and Agriculture.
Presenting the report, Chairman of the Joint Committee, Alhaji Abdullahi Mammagi, said it interfaced with relevant stakeholders to ascertain the justification for the request made.
Mammagi noted that the facility was being offered at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum and 60 months repayment period by the Central Bank of Nigeria.
“From the interface held, the committee found that the Federal Government had offered a window of facility to states to support implementation of AADS in states.
“The CBN, through Zenith Bank has offered to provide the of N1.5bn. The facility is offered for a period of 60 months, at an interest rate of nine per cent per annum.
“This is deemed to be highly competitive in terms of what obtains in the banking industry.
“Niger State has keyed into the programme as its implementation would stimulate and support socio-economic development in the state,” he added.
According to him, the repayment cost was manageable, adding that it would not be too much burden on the monthly cash flow of the state.
Similarly, the House commenced debate on the 2019 budget by the governor.
NGO Urges FG To Increase Agric Financing
The Fresh and Young Brains Development Initiative (FBIN), an NGO, has appealed to the Federal Government to increase its funding on agriculture, especially for women and youth farmers to increase their yields.
The Founder of the initiative, Mrs Nkiruka Nnaemego, made the call on Monday in Abuja at the Yfarm National Colloquium on Attracting Public Financing in Sustainable Agriculture for Youth and Women Small Scale Farmers.
Nnaemego said that the Nigerian government had committed to the 2014 Malabo Principles of ensuring increase in public funding to at least 10 per cent of the national budget to the agricultural sector.
According to her, this will enable the countries effectively implement their programmes to reduce hunger and increase productivity among in Africa.
She said that this commitment had not been achieved and it was affecting the productivity of small scale farmers, who consisted of about 70 per cent of the country’s farming population.
“This colloquium provides a unique platform for stakeholders in agriculture to brainstorm on innovative models and approaches for attracting public financing and government involvement in agriculture.
“From the Malabo declaration, which African Heads of State agreed to commit 10 per cent of their countries’ budgets to agriculture, it is unfortunately that Nigeria is still below three per cent.
“Agriculture is the way to go now since the country is looking for other options aside oil. We need to increase finance in agriculture.
“Although the Federal Government is trying, but it should try harder,” she said.
She explained that Yfarm project’s goal was to promote a youth/women-led agribusiness society by reducing poverty, thereby increasing active youth/women participation in sustainable agriculture by 2020.
She said that Yfarm Project had been at the forefront of policy advocacy, media engagement, capacity building and mentoring of rural and vulnerable youth/women in some parts of Africa.
“We celebrate outstanding youths and women, provide access to markets and business networking through our National and African Youth Agric Festivals and Concerts,” she stated.
The Project Coordinator, Food and Agriculture, Actionaid Nigeria, Mr Azubike Nwokoye appealed to the Federal Government to create an enabling environment to attract private investment. He further urged government at all levels to do their parts by increasing public financing on agriculture across all areas with comparative advantages.
”That is a failure in its own already.”
Soni appealed to the government to make available inputs by January not in April and May when such inputs were not needed.
The Programme Officer, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Mr Alphonsus Onwuemeka said that agriculture was in the concurrent list and urged the state governments to play their parts to lessen the burden on the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the Federal Government’s support to agriculture and urged women to take advantage of the gender unit created by government at the Ministry of Agriculture to handle women challenges.
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