Nigeria is to restructure Bank of Agriculture (BOA) to facilitate farmers’ access to loans and encourage youths’ participation in farming.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja that the move was to encourage farming and boost food production.
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 Agriculture, 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.’’
He said that simple and friendly interest rate would give young people initial start- up capital.
“The beauty now is that there is more money in agriculture than ever.’’
The young people, he said, were asking for a change in the way the nation was operating where “ no bank will lend money to a young person’’.
He deplored a situation where stringent conditions were imposed for any one to obtain loan.
He said: “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 agriculture? And the risk is high.’’
He explained that young people should be encouraged to do agriculture business, including poultry and also go into technology associated with farming.
The young people need mechanisation, access to land and cheaper credit, and the government was working to ease the processes.
Ogbeh said the government would soon introduced a scheme called “Invent your Future’’.
The sheme, he said, would create opportunity for all categories of public or civil servants and private individuals to embrace farming.
The scheme would provide opportunities for civil service, military men, a young persons and other professionals who would like to go into farming.
“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 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.