The All Farmers Association of Nigeria, AFAN, has identified poor funding and lack of policy support as creating impediments to agriculture development in Nigeria.
Chairman of All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Lagos Branch, Otunba Femi Oke, who spoke to journalists in Lagos enumerated challenges facing the sector and other related issues.
Oke noted that the 1.2 percent allocated to the agricultural sector in 2017 budget which translates to about N96 billion, is very inconsequential to address the myriad of challenges facing the sector.
He said the Association had consistently laid emphasis that Bank of Agric should be rejuvenated to enable it play its expected role in boosting agriculture in the country.
He said the Association has been able to project itself following the support from the like the US, embassy which had provided logistics for members to attend programmes outside the country.
“The embassy has paid our attendance fee, and they had encouraged Nigeria farmers on outside seminars.
Now we are preparing for another programme in the US in a few months, free training by the US Department of Agric (USDA). This is the kind of encouragement that we want our government to do for our people, we have contacted the Nigerian Export Processing Council, which is one of the government agencies to encourage our exporters to be able to sell their goods in an exhibition outside the country. But unfortunately, we didn’t see any of these people, especially Ministry of Agriculture” Oke lamented.
According to him, This is another programme that is being done abroad just to encourage farmers and tell the world what we are doing. We are not relenting on our efforts at all.
We are partnering with other investors and in a few months a company called AGILITY which has been sharing a bond with us for 10 years, will get a warehouse for storage of crops like vegetables so as to maintain the world standard of those crops in fresh condition all the time.
The company is even ready to provide its own source of power supply, instead of depending on the ever-epileptic Nigeria power system. These are some of the areas that AFAN, as a body, has been involved in bringing investors into the country to partner with us.
The Association also sought for government assistance, especially in the area of finance support.
Oke said, “There are so many things we could do in the agrarian sector. But it won’t be the time that after the raining season is over; they now call to give you money. That is the area we are laying emphasis on the Bank of Agriculture. It is the closest bank to those of us who are into agriculture”.
He noted that the revival of the Bank will make a great impact in the sector just as he commended the Youth Empowerment Agric Programme which the commercial banks are facilitating.
Oke also commended the Bank of Industry, BoI, for its laudable programmes, especially for the youths.
He observed that most Nigerian farmers cannot afford the interest charged by the commercial banks.
“That is why we are laying emphasis on the Bank of Industry, that it is still our bank. They should strengthen it and make sure that it is functional.
If you are at Taraba now, for example, the time there is eight or nine months for planting. If the BOI is lending you money, they will know that it is after a year when you will be able to harvest the crop, so they know when they expect you to refund the money.
He also raised the challenges in the area of mechanized or digital farming facing farmers.
Oke stated that agriculture plays a peripheral role in the nation’s economy but despite the vast array of land at which the country is blessed the sector has been neglected for too long.
He said most of the parcel of land in the Southern region are thick forests, which require bulldozers to uproot the stumps and roots of trees before the cultivation of the ground, unlike the land in the Northern region that needs just tractors to till the ground before applying fertilizer.
“So, we have to rent bulldozers, and an average person will tell you that a bulldozer for a day, which is eight hours, is N80, 000. And they cannot even finish that one hectare in a day; it has to be two days that is N160, 000.
Besides that, they will ask you to buy 100 litres of fuel a day, and that one goes for N40, 000. The conductor and the driver of the tractor will still ask for their own cuts like N10, 000. So we are now putting the estimated at about N260, 000 to cultivate just a hectare of land, which is on the high side.
So what we are now saying is that the governments, especially, those in the South West, should have something like leasing machine partnership where we can lease, where they can be subsidized or government to buy them in various areas. For instance, in Lagos, we have many of our farms in Badagry, Epe, and Ikorodu.
If each of these areas has two leasing equipment, they encourage those of us in crop farming to quickly go there with small money to lease them because it is being subsidized.
This will encourage us to do more farming. Those in the livestock farming too are having their own problems, especially maize procurement” he urged.