Some farmers under the aegis of the Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria (NCGA) have allayed fears of an impending shortage of cassava in 2021, due to inability to access government intervention funds.

A member of the association, Yemi Williams said in an interview on Saturday in Lagos that farmers’ inability to access government’s N19.7 billion promised in 2019, is projected to cause the anticipated shortage.

“As part of the government’s effort in Agricultural development and sustainability programme, N19.7 billion naira was released in April, 2019 by President Muhammadu Buhari through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) towards the cultivation of Cassava in Nigeria.

“Sequel to this, the CBN held series of meeting with members of the association in respect of modalities on the implementation of government directive.

“The initial step taken by NCGA in March 2019, in Akure, Ondo State, was to direct all the cassava grower across the nation to open an account with the Bank of Agriculture (BOA).

“In order to benefit and enjoy the gesture. The peasant farmers as directed went to open accounts with BoA with N2, 000 and also paid a sum of N5, 000 to register as a member of the Association.

“Majority of farmers, registered, only few did not as they claimed to have lost interest in the system, however, about 90 per cent of them registered,’’ he said.

Williams said that with the assurance given to farmers, most of them waited for the funds to be disbursed before going to the farm, and as a result, they failed to meet up the requirements of the last farming season.

“After we opened the BoA account, the executives of NCGA later told us that there have been changes and that every member should now go back again to open an account with NIRSAL Microfinance Bank. Which we did with N2, 000.

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“It is very unfortunate that not up to two per cent of farmers who opened an account with NIRSAL have received their account number up till date. All these conditions have put all farmers’ efforts into jeopardy.

“We do not know if the money is being kept for accruable upfront interest because sub-standard fertiliser, not suitable for use were distributed in 2019, while some interests were also paid to few farmers in November and December 2019, which is the only achievement recorded so far,’’ he explained.

Williams said that government’s effort to develop agriculture sustainably may come to nought, if not properly managed, stressing that the Federal government should investigate these issues arising from the cassava value chain and call those in charge to take steps that would be beneficial to farmers and the nation at large.

He said that most farmers had gone ahead to lease farmlands but, unfortunately, were yet to cultivate the lands.

“The acquired uncultivated land shall soon be recovered from the farmers and some group of farmers under Cassava Grower of Nigeria, have only one-year agreement with (Omo Onile) the landowners.

“This is for the authority concerned to rise and prevail on the institution hindering the government’s progressive effort so as to save the idle farmers and equally save the nation from immense food shortage.

He, therefore, called on government at all levels to stop implementing interventions for farmers, through bodies that would not align with the vision to ensure that Nigeria maintains its global position as the highest producer of cassava in the world. (NAN)

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