Nigeria’s food security likely to disappear in 2017 – Stakeholders.

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

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