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FG TO SET UP CROP PROCESSING ZONES

By NBF News
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The Federal Government is to establish a 'Staple Crop Processing Zones' across the country with a view to improving the value of the agricultural commodities in Nigeria.

This was disclosed by the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina at the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) Conference in Kano. He added that the project will be able to attract private agro- businesses to set up processing plants to process agricultural commodities into high value products.

A key element of the Agricultural Transformation Action Plan, he revealed that when it takes off, government 'will prioritize and cluster into the zones critical infrastructure such as power, irrigation, rail, roads, communications and water,' adding that these investment would lower the cost of production and increase the cost competitiveness of agricultural processors.'

Under the plan, he said that government will ensure that farmers get the agricultural inputs necessary to increase their productivity, profitability, and exit from poverty, even as he declared an end to the dysfunctional and inefficient system of distribution of government fertilizers.

To tackle the challenges of fertilizer distribution, the minister said that government will move away from flat price subsidy to targeted support through its 'Growth Enhancement Support,' while revealing plans to expand the number of farmers getting fertilizers from the current 55,000 to 20million by targeting additional 5 million farmers per year over the next four years.

He assured that the action plan would create an efficient market system for Nigeria farmers to sell their products and get the best of the market factors. He said that would be attained by putting in place new, wholly privately- driven marketing institutions, called Marketing Corporations, to drive the agricultural value chains to greater heights.

There are equally plans, he declared, to accelerate the farmers access to financing at affordable interest rates, noting that the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture are currently working together to roll out a N 450 billion facility for commercial banks that will accelerate credit for 3.5 million farmers, agro processors and other agro businesses.

He said that it is the intention of the Federal Government to take agriculture away from the political realm, adding that, agriculture must be seen and treated as business and not as a developmental project as the era of big government crowding over the private sector in the agricultural sector is over.