The Federal Government says it will restructure Bank Of Agriculture (BOA) so as to facilitate farmers’ access to loans, encourage youths’ participation in farming and boost food production in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said this when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
According to Ogbeh, the bank’s restructuring will bring down the interest rate on loans for farmers and young people who want to go into agro-businesses.
“Once we restructure the Bank of Agric, the interest rate will not exceed seven per cent, I am pushing for five. The average rate worldwide is three per cent; it is only in Nigeria we are doing 18 to 25 per cent.
“And bankers keep telling you unacceptable stories of how interest rate can’t be lowered.So, if you have those factors put in place and you give young people initial startup (capital), there is no reason why they fail.
“The beauty now is that there is more money in agric than ever; so what young people are asking for is first, the way we are operating now, as no bank will lend money to a young person.
“You want to borrow money, your father or uncle must have a house in Maitama or Ikoyi or Enugu GRA or V.I. (Victoria Island), and then you bring the interest rate to 25 per cent or you must insure your life and insure your house.
“Those things don’t allow young people with ideas to go into it; none of us can claim we all came from an affluent background.“So, how can you ask the young people to bring all these because they want a loan for agric? And the risk is high.
“They go into poultry, there are diseases or they try sowing grains but because they didn’t do the soil test and not given the right seed, the yield is so poor, they can’t pay and they can’t retrieve their deposit.
“So, all that is changing, what young people need now is support, mechanisation, access to land and cheaper credit, and we are working on all that now.
Besides, Ogbeh said that the Federal Government had introduced a scheme called “Invent your Future’’, which will create an opportunity for all categories of public or civil servants and private individuals to embrace farming.
“There’s a scheme we are advertising soon called `Invent your Future’, are you in the civil service, in the military; a young person or a journalist; if you have a piece of land, then, plant some trees and we will show you how to do it,’’ he said.
The minister said that the Federal Government would soon establish massive coconut plantations in Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Rivers and Lagos states for the extraction of coconut oil for industrial purposes.