agricultural output is set to experience vertical growth as the government has put in place strategies that will improve the country’s agriculture revenue, Dr. Adeshina Akinwunmi, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, confirmed stating that government is also working on a project that would provide 10 million phones to farmers in 2013.

“Next year, we will make available 10 million phones to our farmers, out of these phones; five million will go to women farmers. These phones are meant to drive financial inclusion,” he said.

Speaking in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub,  on Friday in a workshop organised by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akinwunmi said that the World Bank in conjunction with the African Development Bank will invest $250 million each on the transformation of the nation’s agricultural sector.

He also revealed that world’ second richest man, Bill Gates intention to support the sector.

The Minister however lamented that hindrances to raising the bar on agricultural development in the nation include lack of access to finance and modern technology with corruption as the main problem.

He said: “When we came in for instance, we realised that expenditure on fertiliser was rising and rural farmers were getting poorer because they were not getting the fertilisers. The first thing we did was to clean up the mess to make sure that the farmers have easy access to fertilisers.”

On finance, the Minister said unlocking finance is very important for the agriculture sector to thrive.  Akinwunmi added that, “The backbone of any agric sector is the farmers’ access modern technologies. There is also need for a single digit interest rate; we need to look for new ways to make long-term financing available. We want the Asset Management Corporation, pension fund managers to invest in the agricultural sector.”

The Minister however urged deposit money banks to develop financial instruments for the agric sector. “Nigeria has a population of over 160 million people; this large market represents high demand for agric products. Nigeria has the capacity to meet the demand but we have failed to harness the importance of agriculture,” he said.

He pushed on that the financial sector needed to be innovative and proactive on services tailored to the needs of the sector. “We must address the issue of term financing because in agriculture, you need long-term loans. So, if you are taking short-term deposited and lending it for long-term, it is not possible.”

Banks and other private lending institutions have the responsibility to develop credit instruments that are tailored to the risk and cash flow pattern of the agriculture sector,” he said.

According to him, “ I have seen what the power of private sector finance can do to the sector. As an agric expert, I can tell you authoritatively that if our finance sector could be more proactive, there are a lot of investment opportunities in this sector.”

Akinwunmi declared that private sector of the economy had invested over $8 billion in 2012. He added that, this year alone, the Ministry of Agriculture had added a total of 8.1 million metric tonnes of food to the domestic food supply, against plans to add 20 million metric tonnes by 2015.

Nevertheless, as part of the plan to revolutionalise the agricultural industry, the Minister revealed that President Goodluck Jonathan had directed in the last two weeks that the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) should be restructured and recapitalised so that it could lend to farmers at a single digit interest rate.

Apart from this, the Ministry had developed a new programme called Nigerian Agricultural Entrepreneurs to create 760,000 young commercial farmers in Nigeria in the next five years with capital requirement of about N3 billion ($19 million).

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