Smuggling of agricultural products was identified as a serious problem due to its multiple effects on local production. The Minister of Agriculture, Senator Heineken Lokpobiri told reporters in Abuja how the current administration is engaging the Republic of Benin to solve this problem. Tells JOKE FALAJU.
Fish production has noticeably deteriorated due to unhealthy practices, what is your ministry doing this?
What we do is to see how we can replenish some of our lakes; we cannot replenish the reserves of our rivers. We have a program in the fisheries department, where from time to time we take a thousand fry and put them in the lakes, and in a few months the fishermen can go there and fish.
But, as a rule, fishing in the sea has increased in the country; more people bring trawlers, they get a license for fishing at sea. Nigeria shrimps are the best in the world and we export them. In fact, wherever you are, these giant and big shrimps in any part of the world know that they are from Nigeria.
The problem is solved in a sustainable manner; we continue to restock to encourage people to hold some of these areas so that the fish can grow. As a rule, this problem exists worldwide.
Freshwater fish has declined due to pollution. When we grow up, when we go to the shore to fish, there were no boats. At present, there is an unlimited number of launches and pollution activities; so many pollution of rivers due to excessive use of gasoline. In addition, there is a new interest in fisheries, because people know that there is great wealth in fishing. It’s not as if people hadn’t fished in the past few years, because there was no fish in the rivers, it wasn’t, but on the whole, agriculture was abandoned.
But I believe that with the stock and the increase in fishing on the shelf, we will continue to increase our products in relation to fish production.
How much does smuggling affect local production?
When we give fishing licenses to people, we tell them that fish imports are limited only across sea borders; no land frontier is allowed to be brought into fish or chicken, each frozen food is prohibited across land frontiers. But we found that smugglers bring all kinds of proteins that are in demand.
Unfortunately, we are not responsible for borders, but we constantly communicate with customs. I am a member of the President's Committee on Smuggling, headed by the Vice President, to find out how we can solve the problem of smuggling. Someone who smuggles rice also smuggles fish. We also know that the Republic of Benin was our most unpleasant neighbor, and therefore we are constructively engaged in the officials of this country. If you remember recently, the president of this country came to Abuja to meet with President Muhammad Bukhari in order to resolve this issue. We will not stop at anything to reduce the rate of smuggling. Unfortunately, smuggling is one thing that you can never completely eliminate.
Despite the sophisticated security of the United States, drugs and other substances are still illegally imported into the United States through Mexico.
Unfortunately, some of these smugglers provide state support by what they do, and we try to understand how we can, within the provisions of the rules; within the framework of the ECOWAS protocols deal with this problem.
How about exporting your own fish, since you mentioned earlier that your regime increased local production?
In fact, if I have my own way, we will ban the export of fish, because the gap between national production and national demand is still very large. But we allow it to encourage investors to see how they can sell or export, because it is a free market economy in Nigeria. If someone feels that they want to export, of course, we can not stop them. Atlantic shrimps, for example, export shrimps, but we cannot stop them, despite the fact that we still have a huge gap between national demand and our products.
What is your ministry to help farmers with credit facilities finance their business?
There are many agricultural intervention programs in CBN, the Bank of Agriculture (BoA) is being recapitalized so that young people who want to farm will be able to access the fund to create the various types of agricultural activities that they seek to do.
The CBN has several billion naira for intervention programs in agriculture. What you need to do is contact your bank, and your bank will review your business proposal and make recommendations, and then you can get access to N2 million. If you want to move from small to large, these funds are available.
BoA has a lot of money, so when you go there, you can get access to small loans to be able to invest in agriculture.
Do potential farmers have any hope of taking advantage of this loan?
Credits are available for every Nigeria. You will need to go to the nearest BoA branch with your business plan, and they will review this plan, do some background checks, they will also want to find the land on which you want to work. We want to avoid a situation where we give people money. Most of the credits that you see today are given in kind. You want to be a farmer, where is the land, how much do you need to prepare the land? They will give you a seed; they will give you only a small component that makes up the cost of labor.
Anyone interested in agriculture has access to such financing. We can also start farming on a small scale from our backyards, get a small pond. We are also trying to encourage people to make small birds on their farms around your area so that your children can eat eggs. Thus, you do not need to receive millions of Naira before you can start investing in agriculture.