Nigeria’s agricultural export earnings have increased by 180 percent, reaching over N5 billion in the last one year, according to Audu Ogbeh, the minister of agriculture and rural development.
Ogbeh speaking at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with John Deere Tractor Manufacturing Company on the procurement of tractors and the provision of farm mechanisation services, expressed optimism that the country’s export earnings would further increase on the tractor mechanisation services which would be rendered to smallholder farmers through the partnership.
“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 percent, as we earned well over N5 billion from these exports.”
Ogbeh said inadequate farm mechanisation had been a major challenge facing food production in Nigeria, adding that the country would need about one million tractors to engage in sustainable food production in the next 15 to 20 years.
He said that the partnership would relieve the government of the burden of tractor procurement and management, while promoting improved efficiency, accountability and service delivery in tractor services.
The federal government would contribute 35 per cent of the total cost of the tractors, while the private sector and farmers were expected to defray the remaining cost.
“We will only contribute 35 per cent of the money and the private sector brings the balance. We will then hand over the tractors to professional managers like Tractor Owners and Operators Association of Nigeria (TOOAN) and Tractor Owners and Hiring Facilities Association of Nigeria (TOHFAN). The associations will rent out the tractors to farmers, they will return our money, make some profits and give to the farmers the services that ordinarily, they won’t have.”
“Before now, what we were doing was buying tractors and giving people to sell at half price but the tractors always ended up in the hands of traditional rulers and politicians; the tractors were never used. The private sector has invented a means of monitoring the tractors; so, they are more efficient and the tractors would last longer for a period of 15 years but in the hands of government, tractors never lasted more than three years.
“Each year, we spend millions of naira buying tractors but we don’t get tractor services and adequate food production; we have, therefore, invented a solution to the challenge of mechanisation,’’ he said.
Jason Bentley, the managing director of John Deere and Namel Equipment Leasing Company, said the partnership was to enable smallholder farmers to get good farm mechanisation services across the country for a period of five years.
He said that the company would train technicians who would handle the machines and monitor the tracking systems installed for the machines.
Besides, Bentley said plans were underway by the company to establish a tractor assembling plant in the country to train more technicians and employ youths in the country.
“Everyone doesn’t need to own a tractor but everyone needs access to technology and solutions to enable them to improve their yields and make more money.
“We are here to offer a SMART solution for Nigerian farmers that focuses on access to finance, we are going to be able to offer financing of 10 per cent of the funding project,’’ he said.
Ahmed Adekunle, the senior technical adviser to the minister on mechanisation, said that the supply of the 10,000 tractors in the partnership would be driven by demand from farmers.
He said the ministry would go into partnership with different farmers associations, including Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN), Cassava Growers Association of Nigeria, among others, to procure the tractors for use by their members.
On delay in the planned recapitalisation of the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) by the Federal Government, Ogbeh assured that efforts were being made to restructure the bank in a way that people would no longer be able to take loans and default in repayment.
“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,’’ 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 to help track fake seed companies and distributors.