The governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, has said one of the first things a government should do to help farmers in the country is to reduce the risk involved in carrying out farming activities in order to make agriculture more attractive, profitable and youth engaging.
Mr Obaseki made this remark when asked what his government was doing to make the agricultural sector more attractive, more profitable and youth inclusive during a chat with youth at the Edo State Youth Summit held in Benin on Wednesday.
“As you must have heard, agriculture is my passion and agriculture is a business. But when you begin to think and treat agriculture as if it is a social service, we will get into the kind of problem we have gotten into in Nigeria,” he said.
He said that profit is the first thing in any business, saying that once profit is not made, investment will cease.
” It’s all about risk,” the governor. Continuing, he said, ”so if we have a system that always relies on importation, then there’s something wrong. It means that the imports are cheaper, and that we have to do something to make our own local production competitive.
The governor said that millers are looking for maize because they’re not used to buying maize locally, but are used to importation.
He said one of the risks involved in agricultural practices is the risk of land acquisition.
”Do they own it? Do they have infrastructure to the land locations?” Mr Obaseki queried.
“You will hear people who go to the market sometimes asking questions like “Madam why is the price of this plantain so high? And they will say ahh! We couldn’t get a vehicle to convey this food from the village to the market, because the roads are not there, so the transporters will charge what they need to charge to keep their fleets operational,” he said.
“What about the inputs and the knowledge?” Mr Obaseki asked. He said they used to have extension workers who go from village-to-village and farm-to- farms to meet with farmers and advised them on what they need to do in order to have high yields so that they can make money.
“But most importantly, what about offtake? If I grow 5000 birds today, who will buy from me? So rather than the government trying to raise money to get into the business of Agriculture, they have to understand the value chains, the risk these people (farmers) face , remove the risks as much as you can or reduce it, and you’ll see more people will go into farming because they will make more money,” he said.
Mr Obaseki said what they are doing in Edo State is to try and de-risk those aspects of agriculture that hinder people from farming.He said if land acquisition is the problem, Edo State has over 10, 000 hectares of land in different parts of the state.
The governor asked whoever is willing acquire land for agriculture to “come and rent from us, saying ”I’m not dashing you because you won’t give me your profit.”
“For those farms, we have infrastructure, we will help you with inputs. We have taken from the Central Bank of Nigeria ( CBN) for Anchor Borrowers Programme, we’ve taken money for Commercial Agricultural Credit Facilities.
”We took N5 billion from the CBN, as I speak, we have not spent N3 billion out of the N5 billion because we are looking for real farmers, people who are serious in doing something to give the money,” the governor said.
He said the way we operate in this country is as if government money is free, saying once you talk about an agriculture programme, everybody rushes there to take the money and move on.
“We’ll continue to work hard to identify the real farmers, remove or reduce the risk and make farming and agriculture a lot more productive and profitable,” he concluded.