By Jimoh Babatunde
Agriculture has been described as a viable business that can earn the country the needed foreign exchange if only the government can increase budgetary allocation to the sector and making sure that whatever is budget is judiciously used.
Alhaji Isa Tafida Mafindi, the chairman of Famag_Jal farms, made this assertion in a chat at the venue of the on_going National Agricultural Show in Karu, Nassarawa State last week.
The agriculturist added that any genuine farmer in the country will be able to access loan in the bank as most of his projects have been financed by the central Bank and a commercial bank in the country.
“Currently, the government is not budgeting enough for agriculture, N200b was given for the construction of road from the airport to Abuja city, just one road, but that is the money they give to agriculture in the whole of Nigeria.
So the whole of agriculture in Nigeria is not more than double carriage way from Garki to airport in Abuja. We need at least N30trilion to go into agriculture. That is budget for about ten years.”
He added “If the government budget N1b for agriculture, let us have N700m going into agriculture, because it is not up to 5% of money budgeted for agriculture that comes into it. I stand to disagree with anybody who says no.”
Alhaji Tafida said if what is being spent on the running of the bogus governments we have in the country is put into agriculture, “the country will earn more than 20 times what we are earning from oil now.
“Just take a look at a bull cow here, I bought N80, 000 last year, what it has eaten since then is about N60, 000 and I cannot sell it for less than N100, 000. If somebody tells you agriculture is not viable is a lie. This bull has fathered 14 other cows in the last 18 months.”
Speaking on accessing funds for agricultural purpose in the country, he said any serious famer will be able to get loan from the bank.
“ If you are a serious farmer, there are banks that can provide the fund for you. I am funded by a bank. But if you want to borrow to marry, there will be no bank to fund you. All my agricultural endeavours are funded by central bank and first bank.
Tafida disclosed that he got N300m from the commercial agricultural loan for an abattoir which is currently under construction and due for commissioning before the need of this year.
He said some of the processing equipment has arrived while others are coming as they have been shipped, “the goal is to kill 150 cattle per day having a live weight gain of 550kg with a kill out percentage of 45% plus, also to be able to kill 1,500 to 2000 goats and rams per day, when the abattoir is at full production, up to European standards.”
Tafida, who is the Yerima Mubi, said for agriculture to develop in Nigeria, we need to be sincere as well as provide land and the right seeds and inputs.
“To develop agriculture we need land and the right seeds, and then supplementary irrigation for somebody whose area can get water, the irrigation can be used as substitute for rain.
Then you need the right minded people, give them subsidy through utilization, not by funding. If I put a billion into the building of this animal shed, send your people to access it and give the money to me and you know the money has gone into productivity.
You must have a survey of what can grow in each of the region, let us look at countries that have developed agriculture, let us invite their retired hands who are still productive to come here assist us.”
He added “When we started from independence to about 20years we were doing it right. The ladder was down, everybody was climbing and getting what he wants, but after that they have taken the ladder up, so agriculture has become the product of permanent secretaries, ministers.
You see budget in, budget out with local government chairpersons, state governments and the federal having nothing to show. Look at the type of tractors we have, they are all haulage tractors; there is no single agricultural tractor in this show.
The agricultural tractor for Nigeria is about 120 horse power and above, because that is the tractor that can move at least 60 tonnes at a time, because if you drag a plough that is less than 60 tones, you are getting nothing, so even with the equipment we have not moved away from our grandparents equipment, but we need to move.”
Speaking on his farm, he disclosed that he has a farm of 16,000 hectares of grassland plains containing 4,000 local breeds of cows. “The farm in Abuja has at anytime over 2,000 fattening cattle most of the cattle brought in from his breeding site in Taraba State.
“From my experience there is no one variety of cows that is better than the order. You can see I have Fulani white, I have the Charolais. I have a buffalo, I have the Groningen red. They are all within the same age, but look at their productivity.
Alhaji Tafida who said he started introduction of European breeds to his farm in 2009 noted that the foreign breeds are not better than the local breeds. “You can grow any cow to any capacity by having the right feeding. All the magic in animal husbandry is feeding.”
He said the best feeds should consist of 70% grass, the molasses which is a by product of sugar; and brewery by products.