THE Federal Government, yesterday, said it will collaborate with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN to create N750 billion agriculture fund as part of its commitment to making agriculture the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, just as it is committed to tackling the smuggling of poultry products into the country.
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Mr. Heineken Lokpobiri, who disclosed this at the 2016 National Summit of the Poultry Association of Nigeria, PAN, with the theme: “The Role of Poultry Industry in the Economic Revival of Nigeria” stated that the Federal Government is committed to diversifying the economy away from oil and revive the agricultural sector to boost the economy.”
According to him “Access to credit is one of the biggest challenges farmers are facing, this government is trying to create N750 billion agriculture fund as this will go a long way to boost agricultural sector in the country. In addition the federal government is also talking with Islamic Bank which has approach us to provide about $ 2.5 million.
This will be rooted through Bank of Agriculture and Commerce Bank and at a single digit rate to finance different agric programme. We are also talking with Africa Development Bank that will also provide funding to the sector”
“The present administration is committed to make agriculture attractive by making funds accessible and affordable as no business can survive with high interest rate charged by commercial banks. Already, there exist some funding from CBN that even the poultry farmers can access at an affordable interest rate of nine per cent but the contention is that nine percent is too high. We are trying to make credit not only accessible but available and affordable,” Lokpobiri emphasised.
Speaking further, he said: “Also, the immediate challenge now is raw materials. In the poultry industry getting raw materials is very difficult because of lacck of foreign exchange. The president has directed that we release about 7,500 tonnes of grains to the poultry farmers, though this is not enough but we have to start from somewhere.
“We are aware that smuggling is a major challenge and this is beyond the ministry of agriculture, we do not police the border, we are talking with customs to bring about the desired change and we create the enabling environment within Nigeria to produce enough chickens and eggs. As at today we are producing 300,000 while we need 2 million metric tonnes, what we are producing is far below and that is why smuggling is a big business but by the time we are producing enough here, smuggling will stop. This is one sector that will create the desired numbers of jobs. In his address at the summit, National President of PAN, Dr. Ayoola Oduntan said.
“We are particularly elated to hear and understand that the focus of the Government is Agriculture – though we have not seen a clearly spelt out road map and Action Plan to a rejuvenated Agricultural revolution. We say this with all sense of humility, since we have not been contacted or involved in any strategic road map to a sustained and robust poultry development plan.
“However, the good news to farmers is that the Minister of Agriculture at our meeting with him in March this year assured the Association that the Economic Partnership Agreement will not be signed and that all efforts will be made by the government despite current challenges, that farmers affected by Avian Influenza are paid their compensations. He also promised to use all channels of dialogue and communication with his colleagues in the cabinet to ensure that no neighboring countries land or sea borders is used to threaten the economy of Nigeria by means of dumping of products through smuggling.”
In addition, he also promised to use all means at his disposal to ensure that the recurrent issue of multiple and obnoxious taxations are tackled, and all taxes on farms are harmonized – and that since poultry products are food items, they should not be taxed.”