Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: We've Eliminated Corruption in Distribution of Fertilizer, Seedlings - Agric Minister

Abuja — Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has revealed that the Growth Enhancement Support ,GES, introduced in 2012 saved the country about N25billion.

Speaking at a workshop on implementation of the 2013 farmers registration and GES delivery scheme, weekend, in Abuja, Adesina said, "indirect targeting of farmers made it easy to divert funds, subsidised fertilisers, seeds and tractors meant for farmers to the open market where they were illegally sold at huge profits. As a result, tens of billions of Naira were spent every year to reach farmers with agricultural inputs but the level of utilisation of improved seeds and fertiliser remained very low".

He said: "I am pleased to let you know that in 2012, fertiliser companies sold a total of N 15billion ($100million) of fertiliser directly to farmers. Seed companies sold a total of N 1.5billion ($10million) to farmers directly. The GES programme also saved government a lot of funds. Instead of the former blanket subsidy system, the GES involved direct contributions by the farmers, Federal Government and state governments.

"Of the total of N15billion spent on the programme in 2012, farmers contributed N7.5 billion; state governments contributed N3.8billion, while the Federal Government contributed N5billion. GES is therefore a cost-sharing arrangement between the beneficiaries and the government. The GES scheme saved the Federal Government N25billion in funds it would have needed to give fertiliser and seed contracts, as fertiliser companies and seed companies were also able to raise financing for their products from banks, through a guarantee facility for their loans issued by the Federal Ministry of Finance".

According to the Minister, his ministry ended the corruption of four decades in 90 days: "We took the government out of direct procurement and distribution of fertiliser. Today, seed and fertiliser companies sell their products directly to farmers, instead of to the government. To ensure that only genuine farmers got the subsidised seeds and fertiliser, we put in place the first ever database of farmers in the history of Nigeria.

"In 2012, we started with the registration of 4.2 million farmers. This will be increased in 2013 and 2014 by an additional 10 million farmers, so that within three years Nigeria will have a full database of her estimated 14 million farmers. Because we will have their full biometric information, it is now possible to reach them directly with subsidised agricultural inputs thereby cutting off the exploitation of middlemen and corrupt bureaucrats."

Speaking further, Adesina affirmed the success of the GES: "the system worked successfully. For the first time ever, we can actually tell you which farmers received which inputs, when they did, how much they paid and how much government paid. Within 120 days of launch of the GES, over 1.2 million farmers successfully redeemed their seeds and fertilisers using the electronic wallet system. Over 90% of the beneficiaries were from the northern states of Nigeria: North Central (197,000 farmers), North East (234,821 farmers), North West (560,932 farmers), South East (31,175 farmers), South South (62,213) and South West (31,070 farmers). The reason for the low levels in the South was due to the early start of the rains, as farmers had planted before the program was launched. This will be improved upon in 2013. By the end of the current dry season, we expect to have reached 1.7 million farmers.

On future plans, he informed that: "we intend to reach 5 million farmers with GES via e-wallets in 2013 and deliver our farmers completely from the hands of shylocks. This battle of deliverance of farmers started in 2012, when we developed the Growth Enhancement Support (GES). Under the GES, farmers received 50% subsidy for fertilisers and 100% subsidy for improved seeds.

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