Panel discussants at the just concluded made In Nigeria (MAIN) Summit and Exhibition in Lagos have said that the federal government’s dream of making Nigeria self sufficient in rice production by 2020 is not feasible going by the challenges faced by farmers in accessing attractive interest credits in banks.
In his argument, a top rice farmer, Mr. Rotimi Williams said “I don’t think Nigeria will be self-sufficient in rice production come 2020 as said by government because the enabling terms and conditions are nowhere to be found right now”.
“For that to be possible, Nigeria needs not less than 1.5 million hectares of Rice farmlands.
We the private rice farmers are not encouraged by any government in any way. Rather what we keep hearing on Radio and TVs is government will do this and that and nothing is happening and years are rolling by.
“I was looking for 500 hectares of land in some part of the country last year for Rice and I was asked to N500mn, I ran away because no bank listened to me when I called for loan to boost my Rice farming business.
“Now the dollar has gone quite high, I don’t know what I will get if I go again. So the dream of rice sufficiency in the next more than 10 years is gone under the present fiscal circumstance.
In her contribution during the session discussion, the Commissioner of Agriculture in Ogun State, Mrs. Ronke Sokenu decried the activities of commercial banks who she said get loans at 2% from the Central Bank and give to States at a whopping 9%.
She said “States are surprised at the 7% margin and this is what is killing businesses and agriculture development in the country. I think this has come for the federal Government to do something in this direction if we want to really get what we want in feeding the nation with foods produced internally.
“Am not indicting the banks, but all the same, from 2% to 9% is outrageous and unbearable for states to do better under the circumstance. Am calling on the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to actually seat down with the banks and do a rework on the matter to save the situation so that we cannot be dribbling our selves.
“Am forced to guarantee the facility with the state’s ISPO under competing things to do and the bank is standing in front of me reminding of irrevocable standing payment order on the loan.
“Now for every time allocation comes in the bank takes it services away whereas I have things and bills to pay including salaries.
“Honestly, Nigeria needs a stakeholder’s summit to look at how banks are working with us in this country. Yes Abuja is doing a fantastic job, but there is a big disconnect between what government is doing in terms of policy making and direction and what we are doing as states government. And until and unless we begin to have a bottom-up approach, we are not going to get the target results.
We need to seat down with farmers and listen to them and help them out on policies that will help them get the needed facilities from banks. In fact banks must be made to see agro-financing as a national call.