‘Lim­ited pro­tec­tion­ism will fur­ther boost agribusi­ness’

As the na­tion en­ters 2019, the Na­tional Pres­i­dent of All Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (AFAN) Ar­chi­tect Kabiru Ibrahim ex­pressed hope for a bet­ter agribusi­ness environment. In this in­ter­view with Daily Trust, he said the best way to boost the sec­tor is t

Sunday Trust - - AGRIC BUSINESS - By Vin­cent A. Yusuf

When you look at 2018, what do you think were the ma­jor chal­lenges for farm­ers? Well in 2018, flood­ing was a se­ri­ous prob­lem. Many farm­ers lost ev­ery­thing they have worked for. We also have is­sues with fi­nance and mar­ket for agri­cul­tural pro­duce.

If you look at the flood that dev­as­tated farms in 2018, do you think there has been enough sup­port from the gov­ern­ments at fed­eral and state for those af­fected?

You see, what­ever sup­port that comes to you af­ter you have lost some­thing would be a far cry from the point of view of the pro­duc­ers, from what they will ac­tu­ally get if they har­vest what they planted for in­stance. So the best way is to mit­i­gate flood­ing. More than any­thing else, we should mit­i­gate cli­mate change-it’s very ob­vi­ous now. The dev­as­ta­tion is so much that you will find that there must be some other forces than caused by the nor­mal rain. So we must make ef­fort to mit­i­gate cli­mate change and there­fore mit­i­gate flood­ing, which is more than com­pen­sa­tion giv­ing to peo­ple who suf­fer flood­ing be­cause some­times we do not have a proper cen­sus of the peo­ple who suf­fered, a lot of pol­i­tics get into it, favouritism gets into it and all that.

As we en­ter 2019 what is the ex­pec­ta­tion of Nige­ria farm­ers?

We ex­pect more fund­ing into the sec­tor and bet­ter yields.

When you say more fund­ing, in spe­cific terms, how do you mean?

I mean we should ac­cess funds from banks more eas­ily. We ex­pect to ac­cess fund from banks more eas­ily, our prod­ucts should have more value from the mar­ket. And we need more yield from our farms, That is to say, bet­ter seeds or im­proved seed as well as the adop­tion of mech­a­niza­tion.

But the govern­ment said they have been able to bring down the in­ter­est rate from two dig­its to one digit of 9%? Are you not ac­cess­ing funds on that rate?

A lot of it is in­di­cated, but if the farmer goes out of his way to seek loan at the com­mer­cial bank, it very dif­fi­cult to get it at that rate but even the 9% that is avail­able through the win­dows cre­ated by the govern­ment, we want it to be lower than 9%. If it grav­i­tates to 3 or 5 per cent, it will be bet­ter be­cause of it very dif­fi­cult to re­pay loans now even at 9%.

You talked about the mar­ket for farm­ers what spe­cific pol­icy ini­tia­tive do you want to see in place to al­low farm­ers to reap more value for their prod­ucts?

We want the pro­mo­tion of lo­cally-pro­duced items, that’s all. The govern­ment will do that by lim­ited pro­tec­tion­ism. Even though the WTO may be against it but ev­ery coun­try in the world pro­tects it own farm­ers by cre­at­ing cer­tain hur­dles along the way of im­port. So if peo­ple are eas­ily made aware of pa­tro­n­is­ing the do­mes­ti­cal­lypro­duced items, it will help the pro­duced items to move be­cause we have the pop­u­la­tion. Again, some de­lib­er­ate poli­cies should be in place to im­prove the pur­chas­ing power of a typ­i­cal Nige­rian.

In the area of mech­a­niza­tion, af­ford­abil­ity is still a prob­lem for the small­holder farm­ers. What do you as AFAN think needs to be done to en­sure that farm­ers across the coun­try have ac­cess to mech­a­niza­tion for their ac­tiv­i­ties?

You see there are two dis­tinct things to be done. One, you must be able to, in the be­gin­ning, make avail­able some leas­ing pos­si­bil­ity of mech­a­niza­tion to a large body of peo­ple by pro­vid­ing big equip­ment for hire. Two, by lib­er­al­is­ing the ac­cess of even the small ones by in­di­vid­ual farm­ers ei­ther by sub­si­diz­ing it or by giv­ing loans to own them i.e. a loan to buy a trac­tor or other equip­ment like that should be giv­ing to a farmer with a very long re­pay­ment pe­riod apart from those pro­duc­ing feeds be­cause some of this equip­ment will be used sea­son­ally, there­fore, it does not bring back any re­turns im­me­di­ately.

As the apex body of farm­ers in the coun­try, what is your as­sess­ment of the An­chor Bor­row­ers pro­gramme and what area(s) of the pro­gramme do you think prob­a­bly needs to be strength­ened?

This is my ob­ser­va­tion given the num­bers of peo­ple that are said to be re­ally im­pacted if you check is very small com­pared to the pop­u­la­tion of farm­ers in Nige­ria. As AFAN, we are re­ally not di­rectly in­volved with the An­chor Bor­row­ers’ scheme be­cause we are not in any com­mit­tee that de­ter­mines what hap­pens and iden­ti­fies who is a farmer or not and prob­a­bly en­sure re­pay­ment so that oth­ers will get. Be­cause what we have no­ticed is that there is re­nege in re­pay­ment, in some cases there is com­plete de­fault, in other cases, some of the pro­grammes are hi­jacked by some state gov­ern­ments with the ex­clu­sion of real farm­ers. And more of­ten we find be­gin­ners ben­e­fit­ing from it in­stead of the ac­tual farm­ers who have been do­ing it for years be­cause there is some con­trol by the govern­ment to give cer­tain per­cent­ages to their co­horts and that is not good for agri­cul­ture; be­cause in agri­cul­ture, we have no bor­ders, we don’t seg­re­gate against any­body. As you know, it does not mat­ter who pro­duces what, once it is food items you eat it. Who­ever you are –pa­gan, athe­ist, Mus­lim, Chris­tian, black or white, fe­male or male pro­duces some­thing once it is a food item, you will just con­sume it.

As it is, it’s a very laud­able scheme, at least it has brought some suc­cour to some peo­ple but it can do more by em­brac­ing ev­ery­body else and by re­ally reap­prais­ing to in­clude the lead­er­ship of all farm­ers.

If you look at the seed sub­sec­tor, do you think that our re­search in­sti­tutes have been able to live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions of

Nige­rian farm­ers? And what sort of changes do you want to see in the seed in­dus­try as we en­ter the 2019 farm­ing sea­son?

We must fund re­search in­sti­tutes a lot more to be able to meet the ex­pec­ta­tion of the farm­ers. We must also de­lib­er­ately as­sist the ac­tual seed com­pa­nies who are do­ing some­thing se­ri­ous apart from the ones that are do­ing it just for money sake and we must pun­ish any­body who brings any­thing else as seed whereas it is adul­ter­ated. Just as you have this pol­icy on fer­til­izer, where there jail term for peo­ple who adul­ter­ate. We must be able to do the same for seeds oth­er­wise a lot of peo­ple will end up with a lot of rub­bish as seeds—and that should cover seed in all re­spect even in poul­try and oth­ers.

Many live­stock farm­ers are com­plain­ing that the fed­eral govern­ment seems to dwell heav­ily on crops while ne­glect­ing the in­dus­try. What is your take on this?

Well, we must ad­dress the live­stock sec­tor more and also we must en­cour­age for there to be a bill for the live­stock sub­sec­tor. The bill should in­clude all live­stock and not nec­es­sary be spon­sored for any other in­ter­est than the devel­op­ment of the sec­tor. Value ad­di­tion in pro­duce from the live­stock is also very crit­i­cal. If you have goats, sheep, chicken, and all that and the only thing you pro­duce is sole in the pri­mary form, you will not nec­es­sar­ily do well. The prices of the pri­mary prod­uct is very low but when you’re en­cour­aged to add value, you tend to get more and peo­ple will ap­pre­ci­ate what is hap­pen­ing prob­a­bly they will pa­tron­ize more of the indige­nous prod­ucts i.e. if you look at chicken for in­stance, if you look at the in­dus­try in the United States, they are pro­cessed into dif­fer­ent forms­fried, roasted in bread, and in many other forms and they are avail­able ev­ery­where and peo­ple buy them. In Nige­ria, what you see on the ground may be il­le­gally im­ported chicken, so our border has to be checked.

For beef, we must be able to con­vert slaugh­tered an­i­mals into very good parts with good ve­hi­cles to carry meat or beef around in­stead of tak­ing the an­i­mals said from the north and by the time it ar­rives La­gos, it is prob­a­bly just bones. We must in­crease what we have at the abat­toirs, up­grade our trans­port sys­tem- en­cour­ages trans­ported an­i­mals in re­frig­er­ated ve­hi­cles or lo­co­mo­tives that move faster. So like that will be able to do any­thing and peo­ple will have choices. For in­stance if some­body in La­gos wants goat meat, if the goats are in Sokoto in abun­dance, it should be slaugh­tered, pre­pared in hy­gienic con­di­tions and be sup­plied to La­gos eas­ily not like you see the an­i­mals been car­ried in trucks and then the trucks hav­ing ac­ci­dent or break­ing down and the an­i­mals suf­fer be­fore they reach their des­ti­na­tions in flesh alive and then they get slaugh­tered there on un­hy­gienic con­di­tions and sold. The farmer him­self didn’t get much be­cause he is sell­ing what­ever he has through mid­dle­men. So there should be a bill sponsor ap­pro­pri­ately and in­clud­ing ev­ery­thing that forms live­stock.

I re­mem­ber that in 2018 I at­tended a pub­lic hear­ing for a live­stock bill but the bill sought to cre­ate a bureau within the min­istry and the min­istry it­self kicked against it be­cause they have an of­fice of the direc­tor live­stock that they should be able to do thatyou don’t need a Bureau but you can strengthen the direc­torate by enun­ci­at­ing some­thing that one must com­ply with, that is very im­por­tant.

Ar­chi­tect Kabiru Ibrahim

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