By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Bank of Agriculture has set aside N25 billion to fund farmers and other operators in the agri-business sub-sector in the next two years.
Managing Director of Bank of Agriculture, BoA, Mr. Mohammed Santuraki, disclosed this in an interview with journalists in Abuja. “The Federal Government has just given us N15 billion. Added to what we had, we now have about N25 billion that is available for farmers and others involved in others activities in agriculture value chain,” he said.
According to the MD, BoA has been re-organised to make it more focused on commercial lending among farmers and other players in the agriculture value chain, which he said was critical if the nation must achieve significant growth in the years ahead. “A lot of the transformation agenda of the present administration in the agric sector emphasises agric value chain and we are leveraging on this to raise the stake of the sector in the nation’s economy.
“What we have done is that we have created a more sustainable institution. It is important to support small scale commercial farmers. Small commercial farmers need credit, but any level below that, what they need are perhaps grants and you cannot achieve commercial object with social objectives with the same institution. If we need to support small subsistent farmers, government should create another institution for that, but we will focus on small commercial farmers and agri-business. What we have also done in the BoA is to redefine what agriculture is. Agriculture is beyond production. What has happened up till now is that when we talk of agriculture people think of farming,” he said.
According to the BoA boss, agriculture has gone beyond farming as much of the nations farm produce gets lost after harvest due to inadequate post-harvest infrastructure. He said inputs supply, post-harvest infrastructure, processing and packaging must be given adequate attention for agriculture to play its role in the economy.
Santuraki noted that in the United States, only two percent of the population was engaged in the agricultural sector and yet could feed the nation and export food, while in Nigeria, 70 percent of the population was engaged in agriculture, but Nigeria has consistently imported food. He added that the support for commercial small scale farmers has become critical to enable them build post-harvest infrastructure to help maximise the gains of their harvest.
As part of the bank’s support for agriculture, he said the BoA has decided to cooperate with the Abuja Stock and Commodities Exchange, ASCE, to support the efforts at strengthening it with a view to realising the objectives of its establishment. A Warehouse Bill being proposed by the ASCE “will enable farmers have access to finance and borrow against their produce and look for market. The bill will also ensure that warehouse receipts become legal tender.”
Speaking earlier, the Managing Director of the ASCE, Alhaji Yusuf Abdurrahim, regretted that the organisation was still to fully take off due to inadequate funding.
In its 12 years of existence, the exchange funding was put at less than N1.5 billion from the federal government. The organisation is 60 percent owned by the Central Bank of Nigeria and 40 percent by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated.
“Inadequate funding is a problem for the exchange, government has not spent up to N1.5 billion on ASCE as budgetary allocation since inception,” Abdurrahim said.