Executive Director and Founder, Women Farmers Advancement Network (WOFAN), Hajiya Salamatu Garba, on Thursday said agriculture is the only sector that holds the key to Nigeria’s economy future.
Hajiya Garba said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) while reacting to the policy directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to stop importation of all food items into the country.
She said from the perspective of the President and from the country’s annual food import bill and excessive pressures on the nation’s foreign reserves, the policy holds great potential for Nigeria’s economy.
“ Agriculture holds the key to Nigeria’s prosperous future and I believe all necessary policies should be put in place to make it the mainstay of our economy.”
According to her, some analysts faulted the approach used by the President to give the monetary policy decision before the announcement. He ought to have explored better ways of arriving on a joint decision before making it a public announcement.
“ In my view, the policy directive is well-intentioned in view of the medium- and long-term implications for Nigeria’s food security, job creation, foreign exchange rate and sustainable growth of the economy.
“ But it was abruptly announced without adequate consultation from the monetary authorities. At the moment, people see it as usurpation of the CBN statutory roles.”
She said some claim that the policy will lead to higher prices for foods, the question is, “Must we continue to eat imported rice when we have all that it takes to produce to meet local demand and make it a competitive commodity globally?
She noted that the Federal Government needs to provide solutions to the problems facing the sector such as inadequate capacity of processing, storing and marketing of produce. These inadequacies have led to huge post-harvest losses which the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi (FIIRO) estimated in 2017 to be in the region of $9 billion.
“ If the government focuses more on addressing these gaps in the agricultural value chains and consolidate on the recent agricultural intervention initiatives being implemented by the CBN, BoA and the commercial banks, Nigeria will not only be able to feed her citizens but will also become a net exporter of food in the near future”.
“ We have all it takes to feed ourselves and we only need to sincerely and genuinely commit our efforts towards enhancing rainfed and irrigation farming, qualitatively and quantitatively to boost local food production”.
Hajia Garba said Nigerian government needs to make access to credit easier by creating a better enabling environment and making interest rates of agricultural loans lower for agricultural production across value chains of the sector and equitably target both genders, especially among the youths.
According to Garba, Anchor Borrowers Scheme, NIRSAL, BOA, BOI and many other interventions must be consolidated with very sound data backup on beneficiaries.
She added that the cost of agricultural inputs should be looked into to make farmers afford them in order for them to become community-based seed producers (CBSP) to enhance food production.
“ Farmers, off-takers, aggregators, processors and others in the “Micro, Meso and Mega”, agricultural value chains should be given loans at a maximum of 5% interest rate, to encourage more people to go into farming”, she said.
All these in turn would help farmers become catalytic agents of the on-going economic diversification agenda of President Buhari’s administration.
WOMEN FARMERS ADVANCEMENT NETWORK.