Premium Times by Talatu Usman
August 25, 2014
President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to set aside a N50 billion mechanization intervention support fund. The directive was given by Vice President Namadi Sambo while flagging off the 100,000 metric tons grains Silos and the Agricultural Equipment Hiring Centres in Nigeria, on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan. According to Mr. Sambo, the money will enable the speedy establishment of the 1,200 private sector driven Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises, AEHE, across Nigerian states. Mr. Sambo said “as we produce more food, it has become necessary to expand our food storage capacity and reduce post-harvest losses. The development of strategic grains reserve is central to our policy of stabilizing food prices for consumers and assuring guaranteed minimum prices and market access for farmers”. “That is why I launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda in 2011, with the goal of producing an additional 20 million metric tons of food by 2015”. Vice President Sambo said that current records indicate that 21 million metric tons were produced by Nigerian farmers surpassing set target and achieving increased food production in the past three years. The Vice President said the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has completed a total of six silos with a capacity of 250,000 metric tons, MT, since November 2013 with a further 625,000 MT silos to be completed by December 2014, making a total of 875,000 MT silos capacity completed within two years. The Vice President said the Agricultural Transformation Agenda is achieving great strides in government’s efforts to turn Nigeria into a self-sufficient country. “Our Growth Enhancement Scheme and the e-wallet system for reaching farmers with fertilizers and improved seeds through the mobile phones, have reached 14 million farmers by 2014”. He expressed delight that Nigeria is the first in Africa to develop the e-wallet system which is now being replicated in several African countries. Mr. Sambo said the agricultural mechanization program will be driven through a public private partnership involving private sector manufacturers of tractors and agricultural machinery, service provider operators, financial institutions and government”. He commended the Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina, the Minister of State, Asabe Ahmed, and their team in the ministry for the impressive progress achieved. Earlier, Mr. Adesina said private sector investments in agriculture are expanding. “Our food import bill has declined from N 1.1 trillion ($ 6.9 billion) in 2009 to N 684.7 billion ($4.35 billion) by December 2013 and continues to decline in 2014,”Mr. Adesina said. He, however, added that despite the gains, certain challenges remain. “One of such challenges is the low level of mechanization of the agriculture sector,” Mr. Adesina said.