The Federal Government will recapitalise the Bank of Agriculture to the tune of N3tn in order to enable farmers in the country to have access to funds at affordable interest rates.
The Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, said this on Monday at the inaugural harvest of a Tilapia from a fish farm belonging to Premium Aquaculture Limited, Oyan Dam in Abeokuta.
He noted that access to funding remained one of the biggest challenges being faced by farmers in the country.
Lokpobiri lamented that commercial banks were not ready to fund agriculture, hence the decision by the Federal Government to recapitalise the bank in order to boost the agricultural sector.
The minister said the nation’s fish demand stood at 3.1 metric tonnes per annum, but the current production was around 1.1 metric tonnes per annum, leaving a deficit of 2.1 metric tonnes.
He said the government resorted to backward integration by encouraging local fish farmers to bridge the gap between demand and supply.
Lokpobiri stated, “When this administration came on board, the supply was around 800,000 metric tonnes per annum, but due to government policy on fishery by the Ministry of Agriculture, the country is now doing 1.1 metric tonnes per annum.
“Fish is the cheapest source of protein for Nigerians; the challenge is not only meeting Nigerians’ demand, but also that of West Africa. People even come from North Africa to buy fish and grains in Nigeria.”
He, however, commended the company and other firms that had contributed immensely to local fish production, urging Nigerians to embrace agriculture, particularly fish farming, “as both the rich and the poor need food to survive.”
In his remarks, a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was a guest at the event, said the government should create an enabling environment for investors in agriculture to thrive in the country.
Obasanjo called on the company to encourage out growers to ease the transfer of technology and create employment opportunities for the youth.
He said, “Your work will be much more appreciated if you can make what I call out growers’ employment generation and wealth creation for our youth, not only in Ogun State but throughout the country.”
…to settle N231bn export grant debt
The Federal Government has concluded plans to settle the over N230.9bn backlog of the Export Expansion Grant owed to exporters.
The Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Mr. Segun Awolowo, said this during a working visit to Valency Cashew Processing Limited, Ibafo, Ogun State on Monday.
The EEG is an incentive that was established in 2006 to boost Nigeria’s trade presence in the international market and to cushion the effect of harsh business environment faced locally by importers and drive non-oil exports revenue.
The EEG, which was operated through the Nigeria Customs Service, with instruments known as Negotiable Duty Credit Certificates, was suspended in August 2013 by the previous administration, with a promise to review it. The review, however, did not happen before the exit of the administration.
At the time of its suspension, exporters claimed they had over N230.9bn in unpaid certificates in their possession.
Awolowo said that the government had decided to pay the arrears and treat them as a national debt.
According to him, the council is already in discussion with the Debt Management Office with a view to issuing treasury bills to offset the debt.
He added that the NEPC had also commenced the gradual implementation of the revised EEG, noting that it would definitely go a long way to assist manufacturing exporters in reducing the cost of doing business.
Awolowo charged the management of Valency Cashew Processing to sustain its production capacity and focus more on value-addition for the product.
He said, “I implore you to pay attention to quality standard and value-addition of cashew for exports because the commodity commands a global export value of over $4.5bn annually, which Nigeria should aim to grab a fair market share of.
“As of 2015, Nigeria produced a mere 160,000 metric tonnes of cashew worth $253m for exports. And currently, the larger quantity of the said production capacity is raw cashew nuts, whereas processing even 50 per cent of the same volume will create 9,000 jobs, including a chain of economic multiplier effects.”