As Nigeria strives to attain self-reliance in food production, it has become very important for concerted efforts efforts by the government to drive growth and development in the agriculture sector through a viable value chain, operators said.
They opined that if this is not done, the country may continue in its status of remaining an import-dependent nation.
Although the country is blessed with a huge land mass and climate that favors agricultural production, there has been a continuous practice of mismanagement and wastage of farm produce.
Nigeria’s food security and economy at large is on the line as inadequate storage and processing facilities which should have been provided by the value chain has become the major cause of the huge post-harvest losses of farm produce that is a daunting challenge to farmers in the country.
While local farmers are able to meet most of the country’s demand for tomatoes, a staple food in almost all Nigerian homes, post-harvest losses has created a great gap between the demand and supply figures.
The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development put the demand for tomatoes in Nigeria at 2.2million tons and the supply at 800,000 tons. According to the ministry, the actual quantity of tomatoes harvested is 1.5million tons but 700,000 tons are actually lost to post-harvest bottlenecks.
Therefore the prices of tomatoes can rise from around N6000 per basket in its season to around N35, 000 when it is off season. This likewise affects other staple foods and fruits that are produced locally. Wastage of perishable foods, notably fruit and vegetables, is a perennial conundrum Nigerian peasant and mechanised farmers have been battling with. In essence, Nigeria loses over 60 per cent of farm produce annually to lack of storage and agro-processing facilities.
According to Dr Grace Evbuomwan, senior lecturer at Covenant University, Ota, Ogun state, the value chain is one that must be developed and sustained if the country will achieve food security and boosts its ailing economy through job creation and increased manufacturing.
Evbuomwan who noted that funding was a critical factor in developing the agricultural value chain line, said the level of funding which the agricultural sector has received over the years has been inadequate. “Both the government and the financial institutions in the country have not given the agricultural sector adequate attention, despite the importance of this sector.
“Consequently, the Nigerian agricultural sector has not been able to perform its assigned roles in economic development,” she stated. To address this, spokesperson of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Isaac Okoroafor said the apex bank had instituted intervention funds that would address the funding challenges of not only farmers but also the value chain of the agriculture sector.
Okoroafor noted that the apex bank, having seen that total credit to agriculture was less than one percent of total credit among banks, had discovered that banks were reluctant to lend to farmers because they believed the farmers would not pay back.
“To know why they don’t pay back we had a meeting with farmers to know why and they said their yield is small and when they take the produce to the market there is nobody there to buy it from them. We came to the conclusion that agriculture in Nigeria can only succeed when everybody on the line is financed and when all the various phases are taken care of and that was how NISRAL was given birth to,” he said.
The CBN had established the Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) in 2010, following an agreement with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) to address the weakness of existing agricultural financing schemes.
NISRAL was an innovative mechanism for unlocking finance to serve the needs of all farmers, particularly smallholder farmers, agro-processors, agribusinesses as input suppliers in the agricultural value-chain. The aim was to provide farmers with affordable financial products while reducing the risk of loans to farmers offered by the financial institutions.
The scheme was designed to build the capacity of banks to lend to agriculture, deploy risk sharing instruments to lower risks of lending, and develop a rating scheme for banks based on their commitment to lending to the agricultural sector. It was built on five major pillars, risk sharing facility, insurance, technical assistance, bank incentive and agricultural bank rating.
Risk Sharing Facility is to support the deployment of different risk sharing instruments to reduce the risk of lending by commercial banks to agriculture. This includes first-loss and shared-loss arrangements, depending on the volume of lending, the part of the value-chain that the bank wants to lend to, the term of lending and the type of bank, experience and capacity for agricultural lending.
The Insurance Component was designed to identify existing insurable risks, existing solutions for coverage/assist in the development of such solutions and link such products to the loan provided by the banks to loan beneficiaries, while the Technical Assistance Facility is to be used to support banks that have clearly demonstrated interest and verifiable commitment to entry into smallholder agricultural lending.
The risk sharing fund and the technical assistance facility is blended for banks to share risks and build capacity of banks to lend and build delivery platforms in support of agricultural lending. The technical assistance facility is used to build the capacity of smallholder farmers and assist them in managing market and financial activities.
For banks that lend significantly to agriculture, the Bank Incentive Mechanism is to further incentivize them. This is done through lower guarantee fees for the use of the RSF and access to further capital for agricultural lending at a lower rate from the apex bank to be able to lend more.
The Agricultural Bank Rating System is done by reputable independent parties to rate banks based on their performance in agricultural lending and impacts of the lending on food security, rural employment and incomes. The independently-developed rating scheme is used to differentiate banks.
Banks with higher ratings are further incentivized through the BIM to do more lending to the agricultural sector. The system also has a dedicated monitoring and evaluation system to track impacts and effectiveness.