Audu Ogbeh, the minister of agriculture has said the new interest rate of 9 percent introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria will go a long way to drive the country’s self-sufficiency in the production of staples.
The guest speaker at the 19th Annual Lecture of the Catholic Brother’s Union, St Agnes Catholic Church Maryland said the new benchmark will encourage farmers and processors of agricultural produce to access credit facilities for the expansion of operations.
He said the previous rates between 20 to 25 percent have had a crippling effect on the economy such that factories have shut on insolvency while existing ones struggle to repay loans.
“I congratulate the CBN and the Committee of Bankers for the new step they have taken on interest rate. An economy cannot grow anywhere in the world on the back of interest rate of 25 percent. Government can do so much but once interest rates are outrageous, nobody can borrow. This new measure by the CBN is the greatest thing that has happened in the Nigerian economy in the last 30 years. If you don’t fix agriculture primarily, so that every family can feed with less than 15% of their budget, this country is in trouble,” he said.
The minister also assured that the government will continue to work at establishing the enabling environment for private sector players to thrive, saying: “It is not government that is going to create jobs it is the private sector. The private sector, the farmer, agro industrialist, the inventor are the people who drive a country and can only thrive when the interest rates are reasonable.”
According to him, efforts were underway via a partnership with three universities of agriculture to ensure that graduates are professionally honed as farmers upon graduation to eliminate the skills dearth in the sector.
Meanwhile, Tunji Owoeye, the director, Elephant Group, who was also a special guest commended the government efforts at revitalizing the agriculture sector, asking that the security of borders be taken more seriously in other to wade off sniffling competition with local producers by smuggled items.