From: Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
Determined to help farmers in the country have access to fund at affordable interest rates and achieve food sufficiency, the Federal Government says it would re-capitalise the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) to the tune of N3 trillion.
Minister of State for Agriculture, Sen. Heineken Lokpobiri, made this known, on Monday, at the inaugural harvest of a Tillapia fish farm of Premium Aquaculture Limited, Oyan Dam in Abeokuta, Ogun State capital.
According to him, access to funds remained one of the biggest challenges being faced by farmers in Nigeria, noting that commercial banks were not ready to fund agriculture, hence, the decision by the FG to recapitalise BoA to fast-track the diversification of the country’s economy to agriculture.
The minister, who disclosed that the nation’s fish demand stood at 3.1 metric tonnes per annum, but currently hovering around 1.1 metric tonnes per annum, leaving a deficit of 2 metric tonnes, said the Federal Government resorted to backward integration and encouraged local fish farmers, to bridge the gap between demand and supply.
He said, “When this administration came on board, the supply was around 800,000 metric tonnes per annum, but due to government policy on fishery by the ministry of agriculture, the country is now doing 1.1 metric tonnes per annum.
“Fish is the cheapest source of protein for Nigerians, the challenge is not only meeting local demand, but also that of West Africa. People even come from North Africa to buy fish and grains in Nigeria”.
He, however, commended the company and other companies that have contributed immensely to local fish production urging Nigerians to embrace agriculture, particularly fish farming as both the rich and the poor needed food to survive.
In his remark, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who was a guest at the event, emphasised that government should create enabling environment for investors in agriculture to thrive in the country.
Obasanjo, who revealed that he had a personal project on zero hunger by 2025, called on the company to encourage outgrowers, to ease transfer of technology and create employment opportunities for the youth.
“Your work will be much more appreciated, if you can make what I call outgrowers – employment generation and wealth creation for our youth, not only in Ogun state but throughout the country. I had on my hand something we call zero hunger, which we want to achieve in 2025 in Nigeria at the first instance, and in Africa, particularly, Africa south of Sahara. And we believe it is possible, if that is happened, this kind of project, which has been pioneered by this company, has io be replicated in many parts of Nigeria, and indeed in many parts of Africa”. Obasanjo said.
The company’s Farm Manager, Mr. Govin Daraju, in his remark, said the company intended to produce more than 20,000 metric tonnes of fish locally in the next five years.
He, therefore, said “the company is not only investing in fish production but also conducting training programs for fresh fishery graduates as well as small scale fish farmers across the country, which is helping them to produce the fish cost effectively.”