Vice President Yemi Osinbajo monday said efforts were being made to ensure that farmers secure financing from the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) at single digit interest rate in a determined move to boost agriculture as part of government’s diversification strategy.
He said the Federal Ministry of Finance had practically concluded plans to recapitalise and re-engineer the BoA adding that the bank should be ready to give single digit rates by the end of the quarter.
He said with the current double digit interest rate and reluctance by commercial banks to lend to agriculture, there was need to develop alternative model for financing the sector in the short term.
He said the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) Anchor Borrower programme has been useful and had recorded huge successes in local rice and wheat production through the provision of loans at single digit.
Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the unveiling of the “Green Alternative: the Agriculture Promotion Policy 2016-2020” which is a four-year blueprint on growing the sector, he said repositioning agriculture was critical for economic transformation.
He said the sector would not only be revived to achieve food security but also have the capacity to produce and export to earn foreign exchange.
He said the inability of past administrations to adhere to policy direction and the unbridled importation of items which ought to be produced locally, coupled with high interest loans to farmers were some of the major drawbacks to the development of the sector.
He said the current administration inherited a near colapse economy and had to take far reaching decisions to reposition it.
According to him, one of the most critical component of the plan was to position agriculture as arrow-head of its recovery efforts.
“There’s no question at all that if we get agriculture right, we will get our economy right,” he said.
He added that the roadmap identified the inability to meet domestic requirements which is more of productivity challenge as well as inability to export at levels required or market success adding that the Green Alternatives will solve the challenges.
He said: “You cannot have a policy of encouraging local production of food and on the other hand, have a high tarrif on imported agricultural equipment. There’s no way that we can encourage local production when we allow unbridled importation of the same thing that we are trying to produce.
“There’s no way we can do the scale of agricultural production both for domestic consumption and export without ensuring local improved seedling development alongside those that we import. And of course, encouraging the works of the agents of the ministries of science and technology who have been making great breakthroughs in local development of agricultural equipment.”
Osinbajo said as part of the 500,000 teachers that federal government plans to recruit, about 100,000 will be trained as extension workers for the farms.
He commended the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, for what he described as his unbridled advocacy for a new policy on agriculture and for also spearheading the policy development within a short period.
Nevertheless, Ogbeh thanked both President Buhari and Osinbajo for their support in ensuring that a blueprint on agriculture was developed.
The minister said the new document was not entirely new as it was built upon the Agricultural Transformational Agenda (ATA) of the previous administration.
He maintained that the present administration had no intentions to jettison good ideas from the past regime noting that policy summersaults were often costlier than new initiatives.
He said adjustment would be made to past administration’s policies where necessary.
He expressed confidence that with the recent interventions, “It won’t be long before we begin to cruise to reasonable altitude.”
He said government would work with state governments to put over 200 dams located across the country into use.
He added that stakeholders would now be expected to use only duly certified fertilizers by government as well as adhere to advisory of soil conditions for bumper yields.
The federal government has already invested massively in soil mapping/testing aimed at increasing crop yields.
He said adequate security arrangement was being put in place to shield local and foreign investors into agriculture from the snares of armed robbery and kidnapping.
On the new policy document, Ogbeh said there had been no alternative to oil and gas in the past 30 years while agriculture had totally been relegated, a situation which according to him led to annual food import bills at a historic $22 billion.
He said given Nigeria’s population projection, the government cannot continue to subsidise feeding, adding that “We have to feed or perish.”
He said tales of widespread hunger will be brought to an end as government expects bumper harvest this year, bouyed by innovations in fertilizer utilisation and education of farmers on new ways of doing things.
Essentially, the new 129-page policy document produced by the ministry of agriculture after extensive consultations with stakeholders, among other things, targets three key pillars including productivity enhancements, crowding in private sector investment and institutional strengthening/realignment.
The key objectives is to grow the agricultural sector to between six to and 12 per cent annually; doubling agricultural household incomes in 6 to 12 years and integrating agricultural commodity value chains into the broader supply chain.
Other immediate targets are to drive job growth and wealth creation as well as ensuring enhanced capacity for foreign exchange earnings.
The six focal areas of intervention include institutional setting and roles, youth and women, infrastructure, research and innovation, and food and national security as well as climate smart agriculture.
He said currently, government’s drive towards food security is in progress particularly for rice, maize, sorghum, millet, wheat, and animal products and tomato paste.
The minister added that the new policy would further educate the people on how to keep bees which are critical for pollination of farm produce particularly tomatoes.
He also said government is presently addressing the issues around cattle rearing and the incessant conflicts with farmers, adding that it is also working with state governments to secure the grazing reserves for herdsmen, a situation that could limit movement and reduce confrontations.
Ogbeh said government’s focus was also to promote commercial agriculture to go side by side with subsistence farming in order to boost exports.
He said a lot of investments would go into palm oil and lemon grass oil productions for export.
He said the new document will also require all undergraduates in tertiary institutions to own farms on campus.
The minister lamented that the 774 local government areas in the country have almost collapsed when it comes to agriculture, stressing that they all must be brought back into the system.
He said whatever the problems of local government are they must be productive or better scrapped.
He, therefore, enjoined every Nigerian to take to farming to save the ailing economy while assuring them of government support.
Oil Slips With Energy Prices in Europe Halts Record Rally
Oil dipped toward $72 a barrel in New York after prices of energy commodities in Europe halted a record-breaking run.
West Texas Intermediate futures fell 0.6%, having reached the highest intraday level since early August on Wednesday. A rally in European gas and power prices to unprecedented levels was set to end as industries were starting to curb consumption. The surge in energy rates could temporarily boost diesel demand by as much as 2 million barrels a day as consumers switch fuels, according to Citigroup Inc.
Still, the bullish signals for oil are continuing to increase. U.S. crude inventories dropped by more than 6 million barrels last week to a two-year low, according to government figures, as coronavirus vaccination programs permit economies to reopen. Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Officer Mike Wirth warned that the world is facing high energy prices for the foreseeable future.
The investor optimism is showing up in key oil time spreads widening. Trading of bullish Brent options also surged to a two-month high on Wednesday.
Prices have been pushed higher in recent days “by supply outages combined with expectations of switching from gas to oil in the power sector,” said Helge Andre Martinsen, a senior oil market analyst at DNB Bank ASA. “We still believe in softer prices toward year-end and early next year as curtailed production returns and OPEC+ continues to increase production.”
Strong prices for gas, liquefied natural gas and oil are expected to last “for a while” as producers resist the urge to drill again, Chevron’s Wirth told Bloomberg News. Norway’s Equinor ASA said Thursday it also expects European gas prices to remain high over winter.
Fuel Scarcity: Petrol Sells N220 Per Litre in Nsukka
Premium Motor Spirit, otherwise called petrol, now sells for between N200 and N220 per liter at the independent marketers’ service stations in Nsukka, Enugu State.
The News Agency of Nigeria is reporting the hike in the price against the official pump price of N162 per liter.
It said it started about a fortnight ago due to the scarcity of the commodity in the town and its environs.
Some residents of the town expressed deep worry over the development in separate interviews with NAN on Wednesday.
A civil servant, Stephen Ozioko, said the situation had further compounded the economic difficulties in the area.
Ozioko said many private car owners had been compelled to park their vehicles at home and move around in public transport.
He said: “Since the scarcity started, I decided to park my car and take public transport to the office and back home. N220 per liter is exorbitant and I cannot afford it considering my salary as a civil servant. I shall continue to use public transport until the situation returns to normal.”
A building material dealer, Timothy Ngwu, said the development had also led to an increase in transport fare in the area.
Ngwu said: “Some people now trek from Nsukka Old Park to Odenigbo Roundabout because of the 100 percent hike in fares from N50 to N100 by tricycle.
“Before now, transport fare from Nsukka to Enugu was N500, but transporters now charge between N800 and N1000.”
Also, a commuter bus driver, Victor Ogbonna, described the scarcity and hike in the price of petrol as “unfortunate and an ugly development”.
Ogbonna added: “Today, only a few filling stations are selling the commodity in Nsukka town, while others are shut.”
He alleged that some filling stations, which claimed to be out-of-stock, were selling to black marketers at night.
He said: “This is why black marketers have sprung up everywhere in the town, selling the commodity for about N300 per liter.”
NAN reports that virtually all the major marketers in the area have stopped the sale of petrol, claiming to be out-of-stock.
The people called on the government to urgently intervene in order to bring the situation under control and also put an end to its harsh economic effects on the messes.
DPR Targets N3.2T Revenue by Year-End
Nigeria’s Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) will hit the N3.2 trillion revenue target by December 2021, according to its Director/ Chief Executive Officer, Mr Sarki Auwalu.
Auwalu made the disclosure when he led a delegation of the DPR management team to the Executive Secretary of Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Mr Bello Gusau, in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said that 70 percent of the revenue projection had already been met. “Last year, we exceed our revenue budget. We were given N1.5 trillion but we were able to generate N2.7trillion.
“This year, our revenue budget was N3.2 trillion. By the end of August 2021, we have generated up to 70 per cent.
“So, we with September, October, November and December, it is only the 30 per cent that we will work over,’’ he said
He noted that the government took advantage of fiscal terms within the old and new legislation, thereby creating a level of increased signature bonuses.
“We reorganise the work programme that is normally being done in the DPR to key into the new operational structure as we see it in the bill, now an act.
“That programme is being handled by the planning and strategic business unit as against what we use to have because the entire work programme is supposed to show not only technical but also commercial and viability of oil fields and to guarantee the return on investment for investors.
“We have also created an economic value and benchmarking unit to key into the new fiscal provisions of the PIA,’’ he said.
Commenting on capacity, Auwalu said the country stands at the advantage of exporting skills to emerging oil and gas countries across Africa with proper implementation of the newly passed Petroleum Industry Act.
This, he said, the DPR was ready to partner with the Fund to continue to build capacity in the oil and gas sector
He noted that the Federal Government was determined to create leeway that would encourage investors and drastically improve the nation’s petroleum industry.
He further noted that no fewer than 300 legal battles in the oil and gas industry in Nigeria, which had been stalled for the past 20 years in courts, had been resolved through alternative dispute resolution.
According to Auwalu, the DPR is strategising well to ensure effective implementation of the PIA.
Responding, Gusau commended the DPR for enabling the industry and enhancing business activities in the oil and gas sector.
He said that DPR remained the head of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria adding that the Fund was grateful to benefit from the wealth of ideas from DPR.
“The last time we visited, we had a good discussion and issues raised are being implemented like tracking the inflow of funds in signature bonus accounts.
“We extended the meeting and involved ministry of Finance, Accountant General office and even the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
“Sitting at field development plans and attending significant meetings, helped us to know where and what the industry is trying to do and it also helps to inform our decisions in training and capacity plans,’’ he said
He urged the DPR to continue on its effort to ensure an efficient and productive petroleum industry in Nigeria
He assured collaboration with all as the head of the implementation committee of the Petroleum Industry Act. (NAN)
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