The federal government has approved N75 billion of loans for agro-dealers and farmers at 9 per cent and 10 per cent interest rate to allow the small scale inputs retailers to have access to finance to stock up on seeds and fertilisers across the country.
The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Agric and Rural Development Mrs. Ibikun Odusote at a meeting with the various stakeholders in the southern states on the commencement of the implementation of Growth Enhancement Support (GES) Scheme, disclosed this in Ibadan yesterday. She also said that President Goodluck Jonathan had approved N15 billion to recapitalise the Bank of Agriculture.
She said that the bank would provide loans at less than 10 per cent interest rate to farmers and agribusinesses, adding that government was working closely with the Ministry of Communications Technology to ensure that areas where networks did not exist in rural areas were covered to allow the farmers to take advantage of the GES and other services.
According to her, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Central Bank of Nigeria have launched the NIRSAL initiative to reduce the risk of lending by banks to agro-dealers and farmers.
"We are working hard to ensure that farmers and agro-dealers have access to affordable financing," she said.
While noting that the scheme was to ensure that farmers should be real beneficiaries of government policies, she disclosed that indirect targeting of farmers made it easy to divert funds because subsidised fertiliser, seeds and tractors meant for farmers were diverted to the open market and illegally sold at huge profit.
As a result, she added that tens of billions of naira were spent every year to reach farmers with agricultural inputs but the level of utilization of improved seed and fertilizers remained very low.
Speaking, the Oyo State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr Peter Odetomi, urged stakeholders in implementation of GES to work hard to ensure that in 2013, southern states take the registration of farmers seriously to capture a greater percentage of farmers for the programme.