By Ruth Tene Natsa, Abuja
Farmers from the north-western states of the country have called on the Federal Government to review some of its agricultural policies and programmes with a view to encouraging commercial agriculture.
The farmers spoke recently at the just concluded Northwest Farmers’ Forum and exhibition organised by a media organisation in collaboration with Kano State Ministry of Agriculture, in Kano.
The Chairman, Sweet Potato Farmers Association, Kano State chapter, Alhaji Abdullahi Bebeji, called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to review the guidelines for accessing loans under the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme with a view to attracting more farmers to the scheme.
Bebeji blamed the CBN for denying many farmers the opportunity to benefit from the scheme, saying “we were asked to open accounts at the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) and we have submitted our names to the bank but up till this moment, we have not heard from the CBN.”
In his submission, Dr Sa’idu Abubakar said CBN should compel commercial banks in the country to invest in the agricultural sector, which employed over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s workforce.“ The apex bank should sanction any commercial bank that refuses to invest in the sector,” he advised.
Another farmer, Alhaji Tukur Nasarawa expressed disappointment with the scheme, noting that it was unfortunate that huge funds set aside for the scheme were still lying un-accessed in some commercial banks.
He said, “Financing is the major problem of agriculture in Nigeria. I am advising CBN to come up with an interest-free loan facility that will tally with the teachings of our religion so that many farmers can benefit.”
He said, “We do not have national pricing policy in Nigeria and this is one of our major problems as far as agriculture is concerned and it is only the Federal Government that can address it. The government must also address the monopoly in the business of fertilizer in this country if at all we want to make any progress in the sector.
Responding to the issues raised by the farmers, the Director, Development Finance Department of the CBN, Dr. M. A. Olaitan represented by Muhammad Ali Baba, blamed farmers for defaulting to offset the loan given to them under the Anchor Borrowers’ scheme.
He cited example with the 4,405 Sokoto farmers who benefitted from the scheme but failed to pay back even though it had added value to their production.
He said: “The farmers sold wheat worth over N285 million after harvesting period but I can tell you up till this moment, we have not recovered up to N50 million out of the money we disbursed to them.”