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Agro players want exclusion of political farmers from zero-interest credit facilities

Owing to the recent announcement by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of a planned integration of non-interest loan window on all its intervention programmes, particularly the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) and the Targeted Credit Facility (TCF), agro players are demanding that the beneficiaries be exclusively genuine farmers through their associations.

The farmers stated that impostors and politicians should be prevented from hijacking interventions meant for farmers to boost productivity and attain food security amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement made available to BusinessDay, Uchegbu Chijioke Nicholas, chairman, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) – Imo State Chapter and secretary-general, All Farmers Association of Nigeria Imo State chapter, appreciated the apex bank for the proposed zero-interest-rate credit facilities for farmers.

“The proposed non-interest credit intervention is a welcome development so far as it will target farmers in their areas of comparative advantage,” Nicholas said.

“This should be driven by the commodity Associations in collaboration with Agricultural development programmes of each state. Unless we strengthen these Associations no funding will reach the target farmers,” he added.

To mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural sector, the apex bank and other stakeholders recently launched an initiative to increase food production by about 10 million metric tons within a year.

The joint venture, in partnership with the private sector through some out-grower schemes, involves farmers and off-takers to ensure value chain development of the crops, boost in farmers’ livelihood through access to improved inputs.

Lateef Sanni, a professor, and former deputy vice-chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), said that the proposed non-interest rate credit intervention is a laudable programme that has the potential of helping over 2million smallholder farmers across the country.

Sanni who is also the project manager, IITA, BASICS-II said that the non-interest facility would remove the aspect of five to nine percent of the economics of production from the fund to be loaned to farmers by the apex bank.

“If farmers have access to quality seeds, agricultural inputs like herbicide and fertiliser and apply good agricultural practices, there is the assurance that such farmers would get a double yield of cassava, maize, and rice harvest,” he said.

“Production cost will also be lowered, thereby, earning more income per hectare,” he further said.

“There is no more excuse for farmers not to obtain credit facilities and engage themselves in more productive ventures. All the youth must be gainfully employed. Agriculture is our best option with a clear focus on job creation, sustainable livelihood, and rural development,” he added.

The apex bank had disclosed that the job and food increase expected from the scheme would be achieved through zero-interest inputs financing options such as fertiliser, seeds, seedlings, pesticides and other farm inputs in the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory.

It would run for one year and about two million hectares of land would be cultivated. Also, It will involve crop and animal production, and each farmer would cultivate one hectare.

The priority crops and livestock targeted by intervention programme for the local market are rice, maize, sorghum, groundnuts, cowpea, cassava, millet, livestock, palm kernel, and cotton, while sesame seeds, hibiscus, cocoa, hides, and skin; horns and hoofs are targeted for the export market.

Godwin Emefiele, governor of CBN said during a review session on the ABP and the strategies for the 2020 agricultural wet season that the creation of a non-interest window was a result of appeals from stakeholders for farmers across the country to also be considered for funding under the non-interest facilities.

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