By Ginika Okoye
Chief Audu Ogbeh, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, says Nigeria’s agricultural export earnings have increased by 180 per cent, reaching over N5 billion in the last one year.
Ogbeh said this in Abuja on Thursday when the ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with John Deere Tractor Manufacturing Company on the procurement of tractors and the provision of farm mechanisation services.
The minister expressed optimism that the country’s export earnings would continue to increase because of the tractor mechanisation services which would be rendered to smallholder farmers through the partnership with John Deere.
“This partnership means greater wealth, more exports for our country. I like to say how proud we are that agricultural exports in the last one year and half have gone up by 180 per cent, as we earned well over N5 billion from these exports.
“We are on the way and with your support, we will get there,’’ he said.
On delay in the planned recapitalisation of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) by the Federal Government, Ogbeh said that designed efforts were being made to restructure the bank in a way that people would no longer be able to take loans and refuse to pay back.
“It is taking so long because we have had to remove an entire management and bring in bankers now. The shareholders are mainly the Federal Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and they said they are ready to give us money.
“The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) is doing a new restructuring. Farmers are going to own 30 per cent of the shares of BOA.
“And the bank would have a branch in each of the local government areas of the country where they can talk to farmers,’’ he said.
The minister said that the newly introduced Agriculture Input and Mechanisation Services (AIMS), which would replace the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme, would soon be launched.
“We will launch the AIMS once our committee submits its report and we will tell you exactly how things will be done.
“We will screen those people who have applied; there will be no question of just fixing names because of any influence.
“AIMS will help to track fake seed companies and distributors because there are a lot of people who still do fake things in agriculture believing that as soon as they supply inputs, nobody can track them,’’ Ogbeh said. (NAN)