By Christiana Ekpa
The Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe has said that poor credit facilities and high interest rate were the reasons for low agricultural production and development in Nigeria
The minister made this known on Thursday at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Agriculture to review the performance of the 2017 budget for the sector at the National Assembly.
He declared that some policies in the agriculture sector which required serious fine tuning to put the nation’s agriculture back on track had not been given due attention.
In response to questions raised by law makers, Ogbeh disclosed that a major problem facing the agriculture sector was that of dearth of credit facilities for practitioners.
He told the committee that interest rates had become too high in the country that no farmer could afford to raise funds from banks.
“How would a farmer cope with 25 to 30 per cent interest rates. The system disappoints the society because it does not make life easy,” Ogbeh said.
“We risk having expatriates alone in agriculture business here because nobody can raise the kind of money needed to run a successful business in agriculture”.
He appealed to the Senate to amend the relevant laws to allow for the setting up of N500 billion Agriculture Funds to facilitate the revival of the nation’s agriculture.
Ogbeh also asked the Senate to make adjustments in the law to allow the agriculture ministry, facilitate exportation of yams and its derivatives to fetch foreign exchange for Nigeria.
On the question of protecting agriculture products through subsidy, Ogbeh said “This is still subject to further discussion because we have not been able to formulate policies on it.
“We have been talking about minimum price for farmers but this is only attainable if we can guarantee maximum output
“We need to introduce a new measure system like kilos instead of bags, mudus,”the minister said.
The chairman of the committee Sen. Abddullahi Adamu urged the minister to go back to the basis and work out how to join other countries in getting things right particularly in terms of funding for agriculture.
The committee said it was worrisome that the 2017 budget for agriculture had not reached 20 per cent implementation.