We are taking Nigeria back to the top in cocoa – Ogbeh



The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, has described as embarrassing the downgrade of Nigeria in the global cocoa business. To revive the industry, however, the Minister has disclosed that a re-launch will be done early this year as part of activities to bring cocoa back to public consciousness. Moreover, he has said that millions of cocoa trees will have to be planted, beginning this year.
 
“This year’s activity,” Chief Ogbeh noted, will start with “the relaunch of cocoa.” In his words: “It is an embarrassment that Nigeria fell to the seventh place. We are re-launching cocoa. We are targeting 15 to 20 million trees a year and we are rehabilitating the existing ones and improving upon agronomic practices, and processing and all the value chains that need to take us to number one.”


Despite hurdles, agric fared well in 2016, kept faith on rice – Ogbeh
-          As he inaugurates committee to restructure Bank of Agric
Although agriculture was up against diverse obstacles in 2016, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has expressed determination to ride out the storm in 2017 by embarking on many ambitious projects. This viewpoint was made known by the Minister, Chief Audu Ogbeh at the inauguration of the national council on privatisation steering committee on the restructuring and re-capitalisation of the Bank of Agriculture and the Project Delivery Team. “The aim is to make sure that we embark on these major projects. So, agriculture continues to be an all-year-round activity. And we too can continue to provide fresh food.”
 
“In the interim, our biggest achievement last year has been that we were able to put the Nigerian rice on dining tables for Christmas and Nigerians are now discovering that their own rice is actually better than what they have been eating from outside. We believe that, by the end of this year, it should no longer be necessary for us to have to ban rice. It would be an automatic selection by Nigerians.”
 
“I thank the Governor of Central Bank for his intervention in the anchor borrowers’ scheme, the Minister added. “Without that, this year, I am not sure we would have had much to boast about in agriculture, especially in the production of grains, in which sector, I think, we can beat our chest and say we gave Nigerians rice for Christmas. Good rice too, and superior rice, compared to some of the stuffs coming in from outside.”
 
Talking to the CBN Governor, Chief Ogbeh said: “I want to encourage you to continue to do so until the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) is strong enough to take on the responsibility at affordable interest rates, and yet meeting its banking obligations.” Announcing the restricting of BoA, Chief Ogbeh hinted at restructuring, reduction of interest rates, lending at single digits and building an agric bank that would automatically double, not only as an agric bank, but also as some kind of community bank, found in all villages and farming communities.”
 
He stressed that “there are new efforts we are making towards fertiliser production and supply, bringing in the youth and on mechanisation, more tractors, more harvesters, to ease the burden on agriculture, so it can become a hobby for many, instead of the drudgery. He called on the public to “note the essence of the FGN’s decision to embark on this strategic step in the BoA revamp process. First, the vice president and chairman of NCP recently approved the proposed restructuring and recapitalisation strategy to revitalise the operations of BoA.”
 
According to Chief Ogbeh, “this approach is aimed at revitalising the operations of the Bank of Agriculture to make it more responsive to its mandate of serving as a veritable platform for providing loans to MSMEs, rural farmers and cooperatives, agro-allied industries among others. This will enable them to meet the huge demand for agricultural produce for local consumption and exports.”
 
He added that “it is expected to integrate into the evolving commodity exchange programme that is currently undergoing a revamp process. This approach was preferred by the FGN as a pre-privatisation strategy to pave way for injection of financial and other requisite resources into the bank, also to future privatisation as approved as approved in 2013 by the national council on privatisation.”
 
Tracing the history of the Bank of Agriculture, the Minister pointed out that “it is noteworthy that, in its over 20 years of existence, the BoA has faced a myriad of challenges, which include poor funding, poor stakeholder buy-in, particularly by FGN agencies, and erosion of stakeholder funds, especially with bad debts. People have borrowed money from this bank in the past and many have either failed or refused to pay.”
 
“We do appreciate the difficulties farmers have faced in the past, some of which we have taken steps at the level of the ministry and the Central Bank to correct. Among these are low yields on farms and very poor knowledge of agriculture the way it should be practised today. We are proud to announce that since we introduced a new fertiliser formula here instead of the flat NPK 15-15-15, which people thought was a magic formula for growth in agriculture our new soil map and crop-specific fertilisers have resulted in yields which have amazed even the farmers themselves, up in some areas, from two tons per hectare, to five, seven and a half. And in one state, farmers recorded ten tons of rice per hectare.”
 
“With such yields, and the favourable prices we are getting now, no farmer has any excuse not to pay back his or her loan. And no bank has any excuse not to loan money to farmers. We appreciate banks’ reluctance on the basis that farmers don’t pay because farmers themselves don’t yield much. But we shall add more to these. New arrangements are being made for fertiliser, with further improvement and lower prices, and more machineries being procured to help farmers improve their operations, especially the younger ones coming in. It is therefore inspiring to note that the FGN has charged the steering committee under the vice president’s chairmanship with the mandate to midwife the laudable initiative to be implemented within a record time. It is noteworthy that the body will be technically supported by the PDT, which is also made up of experienced personnel, drafted from key stakeholder agencies of government.”
 
He assured members of the steering committee and the PDT that the secretariat has concluded arrangements to avail members all necessary working documents. Members of steering committee include Ministers of Agriculture, Finance, Industry Trade and Investment, National Planning, CBN Governor, Permanent Secretary, DG PPE, Chief Economic Adviser to the President, SA Economics to the Vice President.

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