Jonathan assures on cheaper loans for farmers
President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday assured that his administration would make credit more accessible and cheaper for farmers.
He said in a keynote address he delivered at the 19th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, that a team headed by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was currently working on how the government would link up with the private sector and the Central Bank of Nigeria to make sure that farmers got loans at low interest rates.
Jonathan spoke shortly after participating in the Presidential Policy Dialogue debate with the President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Donald Kaberuka; a former Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organisation, Jacques Diof; and Chief Executive Officer, Psaltery International Limited, Mrs.Yemisi Iranloye.
The summit, which is the single largest policy platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors, was organised by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group in collaboration with the National Planning Commission.
This year's summit with the theme: 'Growing agriculture as a business to diversify Nigeria's economy', was attended by top officials of both the public and private sectors.
The President said the summit was coming at a critical time in the country's political history, and stressed his administration was determined more than ever to unlock the economic potential of agriculture in order to ensure food security, create jobs and generate wealth.
He said, 'The government has sustained the implementation of macro-economic and other sectoral reform initiatives to complement the agricultural sector's initiatives for enhanced growth and diversification of the economy.
'Let me use this unique opportunity, therefore, to call upon the private sector to take ownership of articulating and executing the growth and transformation agenda of these agricultural programmes.
'A critical success factor in this respect is access to affordable finance for farmers and agro-businesses. I wish to commend the Central Bank of Nigeria for its efforts in expanding lending to the agricultural sector.
'The government will continue to develop innovative financing mechanisms to make agricultural credit more affordable.
'Of course, I listened to the contributors who talked about the issue of financing, and this is an issue we have been talking about. A team headed by the Finance minister is working on how the government will link up with the private sector and the central bank to make sure that farmers get loans at very low interest rates.'
Jonathan lamented the huge amount spent on food importation, adding that it had made the country vulnerable since any price shock in the global market would impact negatively on the economy.
He said, 'The predominance discovery of oil led to the abandonment of agriculture and we paid a huge price for that, and Nigeria became a net food importer instead of a country that should export food to others, considering the fact that we have very huge ecological zones in the country, starting from the oceans passing through the savannah belt to the swampy areas.
'The importing of food makes our country vulnerable as any price shock in the global market impacts on us and we cannot depend on others to feed us; our population is too big to depend on imported food.'