By Emeka Anaeto
As the National Assembly warehouses the 2017 budget proposals of the Federal Government for deliberations and approvals in the new year, there are indications that it may be of immense benefits to the operators of the small and medium enterprises, SMEs.
The budget is presenting some opportunities for the sector especially those involved in farming and agro-allied enterprises.
President Mohammadu Buhari, had stated in the budget presentations: ”We will increasingly grow and process our own food, we will manufacture what we can and refine our own petroleum products. We will buy ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods. We will encourage garment manufacturing and Nigerian designers, tailors and fashion retailers. We will patronize local entrepreneurs.
”We will promote the manufacturing powerhouses in Aba, Calabar, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Nnewi, Onitsha, and Ota. From light manufacturing to cement production and petrochemicals, our objective is to make Nigeria a new manufacturing hub.
“Today, the demand of the urban consumer has presented an opportunity for the rural producer. Across the country, our farmers, traders and transporters are seeing a shift in their fortunes. Nigerians who preferred imported products are now consuming made in Nigeria products.
”From Argungu in Kebbi to Abakalaki in Ebonyi, rice farmers and millers are seeing their products move. We must replicate such success in other staples like wheat, sugar, soya, tomato and dairy products.
”Already, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Organised Private Sector and a handful of Nigerian commercial banks, have embarked on an ambitious private sector-led N600 billion program to push us towards self-sufficiency in three years for these products.
”I hereby make a special appeal to all State Governors to make available land to potential farmers for the purpose of this program.
“We must take advantage of current opportunities to export processed agricultural products and manufactured goods. Let it not be lost on anyone that the true drivers of our economic future will be the farmers, small and medium sized manufacturers, agro-allied businesses, dressmakers, entertainers and technology start-ups.
”They are the engine of our imminent economic recovery. And their needs underpin the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
”Given the emphasis placed on industrialization and supporting SMEs, a sum of N50 billion has been set aside as Federal Government’s contribution for the expansion of existing, as well as the development of new, Export Processing and Special Economic Zones. These will be developed in partnership with the private sector as we continue our efforts to promote and protect Nigerian businesses.
”Furthermore, as the benefits of agriculture and mining are starting to become visible, I have instructed that the Export Expansion Grant be revived in the form of tax credits to companies. This will further enhance the development of some agriculture and mining sector thereby bringing in more investments and creating more jobs. The sum of N20 billion has been voted for the revival of this program.
”Our small- and medium-scale businesses continue to face difficulties in accessing longer term and more affordable credit. To address this situation, a sum of N15 billion has been provided for the recapitalization of the Bank of Industry and the Bank of Agriculture.
”In addition, the Development Bank of Nigeria will soon start operations with US$1.3 billion focused exclusively on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.
”Agriculture remains at the heart of our efforts to diversify the economy and the proposed allocation to the sector this year is at a historic high of N92 billion. This sum will complement the existing efforts by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and CBN to boost agricultural productivity through increased intervention funding at single digit interest rate under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, commercial agricultural credit scheme and The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending.
”Accordingly, our agricultural policy will focus on the integrated development of the agricultural sector by facilitating access to inputs, improving market access, providing equipment and storage as well as supporting the development of commodity exchanges.