Edo - The All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN) in Edo has accused Nigerian banks of stifling the growth of the agriculture sector of the economy.
Abdulahi Mohammed, AFAN Coordinator in Edo North Senatorial District made the accusation on Saturday in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Auchi.
He said that the high interest rate, being charged on bank loans; and the banks’ lopsided method of disbursing loans were frustrating farmers across the country.
Mohammed noted that the banks’ conditions and methods had denied many farmers access to loans, while the more adventurous ones who took the loans had themselves to blame.
He, however, stressed that for appreciable growth to be recorded in agriculture, farmers should be allowed to have easy access to loans, which should attract single-digit interest rates.
Mohammed stressed that apart from poor policy implementation, paucity of funds was one of the most critical challenges facing the country’s farmers.
``If these problems can be looked at and addressed, Nigeria will be a net exporter of agricultural produce, while millions of job opportunities will be created as well.
``The World Bank, through its various agricultural programmes, has tried in encouraging farmers with grants and loans that are almost interest-free.
``We are not asking banks in the country to do as the World Bank is doing but they should make processes of obtaining loans easy.
``We are also against the commercial interest which the banks charge farmers on loans. If the trend continues, it will not help us to get to our desired destination in agricultural growth.
``We need loans at single-digit interest rates. In any case, we are aware that Central Bank has guaranteed bank loans given to farmers by 75 per cent.
``We are also asking that the moratorium on loans’ repayment should be a minimum of six months,’’ he said.
On the implementation of agricultural policies, Mohammed called on the government to adopt a bottom-up approach in giving grants to farmers, saying that small and medium-scale farmers should be considered first in the funding arrangement.
He also called on the government to carry out wider publicity and enlightenment campaigns on its policies and its programmes, saying that many farmers were often unaware of the policies and programmes.
``Government must find a way of getting the real farmers involved whenever agricultural policies are being formulated and implemented. It is only through this that we will get things right in the sector,’’ he said.