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COVID-19: Farmers to benefit from govt’s zero interest input financing

The Federal Government is set to provide zero-interest input financing options to smallholder farmers through its “Agric for Food and Jobs Plan” (AFJP), as part of efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on food production.

Youths involved in farming. Photo credit: smeonline.biz

Mr Andrew Kwaseri, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Agriculture, made this known in a statement on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Abuja.

He said the project, which was targeted at farmers in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would also link farmers to markets through out-grower schemes.

He explained that the project, which would run for 12 months with an aggregate of two million hectares of land, would enhance land productivity through good agronomic practices, extension services and quality inputs.

The presidential aide also noted that the project would eliminate post harvest losses, which would in turn ensure food security in the post COVID-19 era while positioning small holder farmers to be drivers of economic growth.

“This joint venture between Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), state governments and other relevant stakeholders including the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is aimed at increasing locally grown food supply.

“It will simultaneously create employment opportunities in the agricultural sector,” he said.

According to Kwaseri, trained enumerators have been sent out to identify farmers and their farms to ensure proper targeting of beneficiaries.

He explained that the registration of farmers would ensure appropriate linkages to quality private inputs and services supply scheme.

The presidential aide said that the registration would reduce, “non performing loan rate, which are caused by side selling, political farmers and inappropriate timing and targeting of loan disbursement.

“Upon completion of the identification and registration phase, an evidence-based and database farmers will access input financing facilities.

“This will enable them carry on with their 2020 wet season farming as well as a guaranteed market in the form of assigned off-takers,” he said.

The presidential aide pointed out that the priority crops and livestock targeted by the AFJP for local markets were rice, maize, sorghum, soybean and groundnut.

Others,  according to him, are cowpea, cassava, millet, livestock, horticulture, palm kernel and cotton, while sesame seeds, cocoa, hides and skin as well as horns and hoofs are  targeted for export market.

He disclosed that the key departments of FMARD responsible for the implementation of projects would be Extension Services and Farm Input Supply Services.

Kwaseri said efforts by the government to reposition the sector was in tandem with the position of experts across the world, who affirmed that, agriculture was important in mitigating impact of the pandemic.

By Cecilia Ijuo

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