Targets 2m hectares, 2m smallholder farmers in 36 states

COVID-19: FG to salvage food production with ‘Agric for Food and Jobs Plan’

 

By Gabriel Ewepu – Abuja

The Federal Government Tuesday, disclosed moves to salvage food production with a new agricultural programme, Agric for Food and Jobs Plan, AFJP, in 12 months that would mitigate effects of novel Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, in the sector.

This was made known by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, Andrew Kwasari, where it explained that AFJP is totally different from the Anchor Borrowers Programme launched in 2015 by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, which intends to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and smallholder farmers, SHFs, of the required key agricultural commodities.

Kwaseri further stated that the priority crops targeted by the AFJP is also different from that of ABP which include Rice, Maize, Sorghum, Soybean, Groundnuts, Cowpea, Cassava, Millet, Livestock, Horticulture, Palm kernel& Cotton; while Sesame Seeds, Hibiscus, Cocoa, Hides and Skins; and Horns and Hoofs are targeted for the export market.

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According to him the AFJP targets 2 million smallholder farmers across the 36 states of Nigeria and FCT and aims to produce 10 million tonnes of food (carbohydrates, animal protein, and edible oils) within the next 12 months.

The key department of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development responsible for the implementation of the AFJP are the departments of Extension Services and the Department of Farm Input Supply Services.

He said: “Since its detection in Asia early this year, coronavirus, widely known as Covid-19 has ravaged countries on a global scale, stopping the world dead in its tracks and altering life as we know it. Rapidly spreading from country to country, the virus has led to a temporary shutdown of activities as a result of strictly enforced lockdowns and restrictions that hampered businesses and economies around the world. With oil prices experiencing a major fall and the concept of recessions becoming a reality for most nations, it has become imperative to forge paths and cultivate ideas that protect not just jobs and the economy, but the survival of Nigerians as a whole.

“A vital sector affected by this virus is the agricultural sector. With panic, restrictions, and lack of access to funding and relevant input impeding the farming process, output and supply have been negatively affected with a scarcity of food and job losses becoming more imminent by the day.

“To this end, the Federal Government in collaboration with State Governments through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), is set to launch a revolutionary agric-focused intervention scheme in the form of the Agric for Food and Job Plan (AFJP).

“This joint venture between FMARD, State Governments, as well as other relevant stakeholders including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), private sector via out-grower schemes, and farmers across the country, is aimed at increasing locally grown food supply, while simultaneously creating employment opportunities in the agricultural sector.

“This will be achieved through investment in the sector by way of providing zero-interest input financing options such as fertilizers and seeds to farmers across the 36 states of the country and the F.C.T, to produce a harvest that can sell domestically and internationally. This will, therefore, increase agricultural productivity, create job opportunities in the sector, ensure the continuity of the country’s food supply chain, and help the economy recover speedily.

“The programme will be run for a duration of 12 months with an aggregate of 2 million hectares of land, and livestock targeted across the country. In collaboration with the N-Power Scheme – a part of the Federal Government’s Social Intervention Programme, trained enumerators have been sent out to identify farmers and their farms to ensure proper targeting of beneficiaries.

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The farmers’ registration will also ensure appropriate linkages to quality private inputs and services supply schemes and reduce none performing loan rates which are caused by side selling, political farmers, and inappropriate timing and targeting of loan disbursement.

“Upon completion of the identification and registration phase, an evidence-based database of farmers will access input financing facilities to carry on their 2020 wet season farming, as well as a guaranteed market in the form of assigned off-takers.”

He added that experts from around the world, have stressed the importance of agriculture in mitigating the impact of this pandemic on the global food supply chain, which calls on developing countries including Nigeria to channel massive investments and population towards food production, which the Federal Government remains committed to the production of quality and affordable agricultural produce, as well as the creation and protection of jobs in the sector.

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