By Jide Ajia
The Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari, on Tuesday hinted that an offer of $4.5 billion has been extended to develop and increase agricultural produce in the state from China.
Governor Yari stressed that the loan had a 20-year repayment period at an interest rate of 1 percent, adding that the loan was meant to ressucitate ageing agricultural machinery and infrastructure in the agrarian state.
Yari, who doubles as the Chairman of Governor’s Forum addressed journalists after a brief meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh in Abuja, reiterated that China was giving Zamfara a credit line of $4.5 billion for the procurement of strategic machinery for rural development and agriculture.
He added that the loan offer would be presented to cabinet colleagues on Wednesday and considered by lawmakers for final approval.
The Minister for Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, alongside governor Yari briefed the president on agricultural developments following the duos visit to China in April last year and the progress of negotiations on issues related to agricultural machinery.
Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and a strong member of Organisation of Peteroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is in its first recession in 25 years largely due to low oil prices.
The government has prioritised growth in the agriculture sector to reduce its reliance on crude oil sales, which make up two-thirds of government revenue.
The Guild had earlier reported that the World Bank approved a $200 million loan to boost agriculrutural practice in Nigeria and more so, to support the federal government’s effort to grow small and midium scale farmers.
The loan from the International Development Association, the bank’s low-interest arm, has a maturity of 25 years with a grace period of five years. It also said about 60,000 individuals would benefit directly from the funding, of which 35 percent were women. Report added that about 300,000 farming households would be affected indirectly.
The bank was quoted as saying: “Priority value chains will include products with potential for immediate improvement of food security, products with a potential for export and foreign currency earnings”.
The funds, the report added would help tackle low yields, lack of seed capital to set up agro-factories, low-level adoption of technology and limited access to markets, stressing that Nigeria spends $20 billion a year importing food. With the fall in oil prices, it has been running short of dollars, which has also weakened the local currency.
Last month for instance, the government unveiled sweeping recovery plans which included currency reforms to boost tax revenues. It aims to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by 2018 and in wheat by 2019 or 2020.
By the latter date, the bank urged the beneficiaries to channel the fund towards making the country becoming a net exporter of rice, cashew nuts, groundnuts, cassava and vegetable oil, some of the crops the World Bank loan is meant to finance.
It stressed the needs to tackle poor road network in the country so as to alow free movement of farm produce in the country.