Nigeria’s quest for food security may remain a mirage in 2017 if the federal government fails to settle agro-allied dealers’ debts, stakeholders say. The government and the dealers have a pact in funding agro-allied products to make them affordable to farmers under the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme (GES), launched in 2012. The scheme assists farmers with quick access to farm inputs at reduced prices of about 50 percent.
“The Buhari administration has shown commitment to the agricultural sector, and it can only be realized if this scheme is funded,” says Prof Kennedy Eze, an agric economist. Investigations show that the scheme recorded successes in 2013/2014 dry/wet season farming activities, leading to reduced prices of agro-products in 2015. The failure of the federal government to pay the dealers in 2014 caused food price inflation in 2016 because the dealers refused to participate in 2015. GES’ reports show that, “The food price inflation that started in 2016 when the scheme was not operational will start to drop by April 2017. By maintaining this effort and reaching out to 3, 028, 434 rice farmers in the 2017 GES wet season, Nigeria will be able to achieve self-sufficiency in the rice value.”
A beneficiary, Mr Chimaobi Mba, said, “This scheme remains the pivot to propel Nigeria’s food security as well as sustain the country’s economy. About 700, 000 farmers benefit from the scheme with over 500, 000 getting inputs across the states. The need for the federal government to be proactive is to avert the looming dangers. Now that the rainy season has begun in the southern part of the country, we urgently need these agro-allied products otherwise the multiplier effects will be negative.”
An agro-dealer, who does not want his name mentioned, said, “We supply organic and inorganic fertilizers, agro-chemicals, improved seeds and other products directly to farmers. We were promised to be paid the balance of 2014 and 2016/2017 dry season two weeks after the exercise stating that the money has been set aside. What has happened to the money? A majority of our members took bank loans with higher interest rates to supply inputs to farmers across the states. Such delay portends danger because it can lead to mistrust between the federal government and the dealers. Due to the non-payment of 2014 GESS funds by the federal government, the dealers pulled out of the scheme, but were persuaded by the agric minister to continue with the scheme, promising that the remaining balance for 2014 and that of the 2016/2017 farming seasons were already set aside. In fact the minister assured us that the money had been released, but up until now, we have not been paid. I guess that President Buhari is not aware of this because times without number, it is reported that the money has been paid. Let them tell us who was paid.”
Mba said it was regrettable that the federal government had paid most of the contractors it owed, and cried that the agricultural sector which is more sensitive was relegated to the background. He said agriculture minister Prince Audu Ogbeh was part of those that supplied seeds under the same scheme in 2014, and called on him to use his good offices to address the issues.
It would be recalled that the minister of state for agriculture, Heineken Lokpobiri, while flagging off the scheme in Kano in January, said the scheme was for the poorest farmers, adding that it had resulted in increased agricultural production, hence the determination of the government to fund it. The stakeholders appealed for the release of their funds.
Source: Breaking Times