Asaba - Agriculture Minister Akinwumi Adesina said on Friday the World Bank boosted agricultural development in Nigeria in the last two years by offering nearly N139.5 billion to the sector .
Adesina, said this while speaking at the ongoing All Nigerian Editors’ Conference in Asaba, Delta.
He said that nearly N62 billion of the amount was specifically pumped into irrigation development.
He also said that the African Development Bank (ADB) had provided nearly N77.5 billion to support the development of infrastructure around the staple crop processing zones in the country.
He said that the International Fund for Agriculture Development had also provided additional N31 billion to support staple crop processing around the country.
The minister added that the French Agency for Development for the construction of rural roads had provided another $200 million (about N31.2bn) to complement government’s market development efforts.
He said since the advent of the reform programme in the agriculture sector, changes were recorded in commercial banks’ lending to farmers.
According to him, in 2012, banks lent N3.5 billion to the agricultural sector, mainly for fertilizer and seed companies under the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES).
He said, "while this was lower than expected, the perceived high risk of lending by banks to the sector was proved to be exaggerated by the results obtained.
"Of the total lending, default rate experienced was zero per cent.
"As a result of this success, banks ramped up massive agricultural lending increase to N25 billion.
"Banks are now lending more because of our success in fixing the agricultural value chains, reducing risks and lowering cost of doing business for banks,” he added.
Adesina said the Federal Government had embarked on a major drive to change the face of agriculture and to make it more attractive to the youth.
He added that President Goodluck Jonathan would, in September, launch “Nagropreneur” programme for the youth.
He said the programme would create "a new generation of 750,000 young commercial farmers, who would become the `young elite’ commercial farmers who will make Nigeria competitive in the global agricultural market.”
He said that the impact of agricultural transformation agenda had been significant, with additional nine million tonnes of food produced in 2012 and 2013, representing 80 per cent increase from the annual target of five million tonnes.
"Food imports declined by N857 billion by the end of 2012, showing a 144 per cent achievement above the target of N350 billion,” he said.
He added that import bill on wheat, sugar and rice declined by N465 billion in 2012.