Acting President Yemi Osinbajo SAN on Monday said that Federal government was set to reposition and cash on the land size comparative advantage of Niger State to produce food that will feed half of Africa.
He disclosed this at the first Niger State Investment Summit in Minna, Niger state capital.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, immediate past military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and Niger State Governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello also strongly canvassed for single digit interest rate on credit advanced by financial institutions to farmers and for agro-business.
The acting President said that federal government had started a high level discussion with the state government on how to boost agricultural production and agro-business in the state in view of its comparative advantage of he state.
According to him, “the mission is to reposition Niger State to feed at least fifty percent of African countries”.
He noted that with a large arable land, reasonable water body and availability of manpower in Niger state, federal government would partner with the state to feed not only the country but half of the African continent.
The acting President, argued that though the task may look tough, in view of the present production level of the state, he maintained that everything required to fulfill this goal is available in the state.
“Everything to achieve this objective is ready in the state. Niger state has all the resources that are require to feed not only Nigeria but at least half of the African continent.
“Only very few states in Africa have the size of land Niger state has and with this large size of variable land, large water body and active labour, I see no reason why this objective is not achievable,” the acting president stated.
He then commended the initiative of the state government at ensuring conducive environment for agriculture and agro-business.
Meanwhile two former leaders President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as Governor Abubakar Sani Bello yesterday called on financial institutions in the country to reduce interest rates to farmers if the country’s quest for economic diversification must succeed.
This position was contained in their goodwill messages at the Niger State Investment Summit in Minna on Monday.
The trio frowned at what they described as exorbitant interest lending rate, which they put at between 18 and 25 percent, stressing that the double digit interest rate is not favourable to the development of agriculture and a threat to the nation’s quest for economic diversification.
Obasanjo noted that the only thing that can take Nigeria out of its present economic recession is agriculture and agro business as the country’s dependence on oil has led to the declined of her economy.
“Agriculture is the only thing that can take Nigeria out of recession. Agro -business is the solution of getting out of recession but there must be availability of funds; the banks must give interest rate that is conducive for agricultural development.
“To give interest rate of double digits is a failure already, except they (Banks) want the farmers to grow cocaine. Farmers and indeed the sector cannot trive with the present interest rate. America’s agriculture was developed on 2.5% interest rate. Government must do something to peg the rate to a single digit.
In his mesage, General Abdulsalami Abubakar challenged Banks in the country to come up with low interest rates and arrangement that will encourage farming and farmers.
He said, “earlier today representatives of banks spoke and assured that they will support farmers but that is not enough, they should look at the interest rate which is between 18 to 25 percent while interest rates for farmers internationally is just 2.5 percent”.
Also, the governor of Niger state, Abubakar Sani Bello said the high interest rate has affected agricultural activities in the state adding that “our double digit interest rate is outrageous because even the United States of America has a low interest rate of 2 percent”.
He cautioned that the high interest rate poses a great threat to the nation’s food security and called for drastic reduction of the rate.
According to him, ” there is money in agro-business but our farmers are suffering because due to high interest rate and their inability to acquire processing machines.”