Though there is no doubt that a solid foundation has been laid in agriculture by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, driven by Dr Akinwumi Adesina, agriculture is not yet a sustainable business in Nigeria due to factors stakeholders view could be handled with strong political willpower.
Putting an end to fraudulent regimes of fertilizer subsidy; introduction of Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES); cassava flour-based bread and other confectionaries; cocoa, rice and wheat production initiatives; dry season farming; one-stop input outlets; mechanisation programmes, farmer registration/database and creation of a commodity exchange are some of the efforts often touted as outstanding merits of the agricultural reform.
However, President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), an umbrella body for all agricultural and allied business associations, Mr Kabir Ibrahim, said in the past years of the Growth Enhancement Scheme of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA) of the Federal Government, only subsistence farmers were empowered with little or no poverty-reduction effect on the majority of the farmers and their households.
He said if the government desired a great effect, commercial farmers must be incorporated and subsistence farmers must be empowered to become commercial.
Ibrahim also faulted the value chain approach, saying it should be developed along regional crops. He argued that only cassava value chained was harped upon, and cassava, according to him, is not a national or unifying crop, saying only the South had comparative advantage in the cultivation of cassava and its allied products. He said he would want the government to identify crops peculiar to each geopolitical zone and make the value chain development even.
On agricultural mechanization, AFAN president said mechaninisation is still at the lowest ebb. He said lower horsepower tractors and other agro-equipment being purchased could hardly take care of farmers’ requirements, calling on the government to acquire commercial farming equipment, supply agrochemicals and other inputs to farmers in commercial quantities.
Ibrahim added that prices of agricultural produce should be stabilised and minimum prices guaranteed so that farmers could plan ahead and make calculated investment decisions, saying price fluctuations had discouraged and would continue to discourage farmers, year in year out, having negative effects on food production, poverty eradication efforts, wealth creation and security.
Oyo State chairman of AFAN, Mr Ayinla Olumide, said despite the noise about ATA, credit facilities to genuine farmers have not been forthcoming. He said the government should stop paying lip service to provision of facilities to farmers.
He also said more inputs, extension of farm mechanisation scheme to all states of the federation, access to farmland and grading of farmland roads should be incorporated into ATA in 2015 to make agribusinesses sustainable and attractive.
The national Secretary of the Catfish Farmers Association of Nigeria (CAFAN), Mr Rotimi Oloye, said on behalf of the association that “imported fish, high cost of production, expensive fish feed additives and poor financial schemes are major problems we want the government to tackle this year.”
He lamented that high rate of fish importation to the country had made it difficult for catfish farmers to penetrate the local market, saying this was also aggravated by rising costs of fish feed ingredients due to crises in the Northern part of the country from where grains are sourced.
Oloye also faulted the commercial banks, which, he said, had failed to assist farmers. He said the interest rate is not only exorbitant but also unprofitable, saying the government should find a better way of reaching the real farmers financially.
Mrs Bola Adeyemo, Coordinator of the Senator Adeyemo Women Empowerment Scheme, had earlier lamented the sorry state of agriculture financing in the country.
“Increasing funding to agriculture will go a long way. This will imply more tractors and other farm inputs are made available. While I was given information from a big cassava processor in Nigeria, he said farmers could never get the loan facilities from banks. He got N8 million loan because they knew he is in processing and he has other means to pay the money…
“So, this is one of the problems. I once approached a commercial bank and the manager told me that I should not waste my time, that the portion released to the bank by the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) had been given to a particular farm that was into full agriculture and production, but they knew he had other means to pay the money,” Adeyemo said.
Adeyemo also called for more support for agro-processors, saying processing would go a long way in creating value addition and additional income, as well as more jobs for the unemployed.
She said rural roads leading to most of the farm settlements and farmland should be given adequate attention. He said, for instance, it costs N5,000 to transport a tonne of cassava tubers to the buyer, who buys the products at N10,000, reducing the financial yields by a half.
Adeniyi Adenuga, a youth fish farmer and owner of Tepebo Farm in Ijebu Ode, said more avenues should be created in 2015 for farmers to sell their produce, saying production without a ready market would always discourage farmers, making agribusiness unsustainable.
The Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) beneficiary said agricultural financing should be holistically looked into and fashioned in such a way that would make funding for farmers more friendly, accessible and cheaper. [SOURCE: TRIBUNE]