Nigerians may witness food scarcity before the end of 2017, as the federal government is yet to meet the expectation of agro-allied dealers involved in its Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES).
LEADERSHIP gathered that the federal government is owing the scheme over N9 billion.
Investigation revealed that, while GES 2016 dry season programme is yielding positive results as prices of food, especially rice may drop by June 2017, the crash in the prices of food stuff can only be sustained if the GES programme for the year 2017 wet season yields similar success.
The GES programme which was launched in 2012 with the purpose of easing farmers access to farm impute resumed in 2016 after a year break in 2015.
The federal government took the opportunity offered by the programme to promote financial inclusion to farmers, just as over 600,000 farmers were financially included, with over 450,000 receiving farm inputs across 30 states in 60 days.
GES under the 2016/2017 dry season farming and wet season farming was flagged-off in Kano during the first week on January 31.
Minister of State for Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri who flagged off the scheme said that the GES Programme is for the poorest of the poorest subsistence farmers.
The minister added that GES scheme, as it has been observed, has resulted in increased yield and production and therefore, government has decided to fund and develop the laudable scheme.
The agro-allied dealers were however committed to supply the inputs, including organic and inorganic fertilisers, agro chemicals and improved seeds to 500,000 farmers in 30 states of the federation, with a promise to pay them within three weeks, which elapsed on March 31
An agro-allied dealer, who spoke to our correspondent in Kaduna on condition of anonymity said many of the agro dealers involved in the project took bank loans to supply the inputs to 458,000 farmers in 30 states on February 20.
He said, “The Minister of State for Agriculture promised us that we would be paid before 31st of March, but this is already third week of April and we have not heard anything.
“My fear, which I believe is the fear of all other dealers involved, is that the wet season is almost here and the delay in the payment of this money- mind you, we are talking about N9 billion here- may Mar the wet season scheme. The reason is that those of us that took loans from the bank are already feeling the heat. So, where do we get money to finance the supply for the wet season programme?
“If the money is even paid before the commencement of the wet season programme, agro dealers will need strong assurance from the federal ministry of agriculture that such delay will not repeat itself. Otherwise many of us will pull out and that will have a devastating effect on output and definitely lead to food scarcity later in the year”.
GES report obtained by LEADERSHIP Friday has it that from the 383,636 rice farmers that received inputs during the 2016 dry season programme, enough food will be produced to feed 120 million Nigerians for 2 months.
The report states: “Rice is one of the major staple foods in Nigeria and its importation is a significant contributor to the balance of trade deficit and concomitantly to the Naira’s exchange rate. From the 383,636 rice farmers that received inputs during the 2016 dry season program, enough food will be produced to feed 120,000,000 Nigerians for 2 months.
“We are expecting the food price inflation that started in 2016 when GES didn’t take place in 2015, to begin to drop by mid April 2017. By maintaining this effort and reaching out to 3,028,434 rice farmers in the 2017 GES wet season, Nigeria will be able to achieve self-sufficiency in the rice value chain as stated by the Federal Government of Nigeria”.