Chief Audu Ogbe, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that the Federal Government would lobby banks to peg interest rate at five per cent instead of the current nine per cent.
Ogbe made this known on Tuesday in Ilorin at the launching of the 2nd phase of Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprise (AEHE) programme at the National Centre for Agricultural Mechanism, (NCAM).
The minister was of the view that nine per cent was too high as interest rate for farmers, adding that for people of Nigeria to feed well, agriculture must grow.
“So interest rate has to come down, if this is done, banks will have more loans to give and more farmers will be taking the loan because of the low rate,” Ogbe said.
The Minister said incessant clashes between farmers and cattle herdsmen in the country would be brought to an end in the next two years.
He Federal Government would create grazing areas in the country where the herdsmen would take care of their cattle.
“We will grow grass in the South to feed the cattle in the North, just as Saudi Arabia did,” he said.
According to the minister, if Saudi Arabia with the largest cattle ranch in the world can grow its grass for the cows in the United States of America, Nigeria should be able to do same.
The minister said he would soon come out with a road map for the ministry, adding that the ministry would come up with soil map of the country.
With this soil map, farmers would know the type of fertiliser suitable for his farm and how to apply same for optimal yield.
He said his ministry was targeting three million metric tons of cocoa and planned to plant more castor trees, rice, sugar and wheat.
Ogbe commended NCAM for its efforts in the mechanization of agriculture, adding that no country can practice large scale agriculture without mechanization.
He promised that the Federal Government would assist NCAM to improve on the tractors it developed.
“We cannot develop agriculture by distributing cutlasses and hoes to the farmers, only one per cent of farms are produced by mechanized farming,” he said.
The minister lamented that Nigeria has less than 300 tractors while the whole of Europe was mechanized and USA completely mechanized.
Ogbe said that from available statistics, there are 800 million hectares of farm land in the world with 400 million of this from Africa.
He said Nigerian has 79 per cent of farmland which translated to 92 sq km of land, adding that Nigeria is wealthy as land is wealth everywhere.
The minister, however, said that in 34 years to come, Nigeria population would stand at 500 million on the same piece of land.
Ogbe, therefore, appealed to state governments not to give too much land to a single person for farming so that young people wishing to go into farming would find land to farm.
He said the country cannot afford to continue to import food that can be produced in the country, adding that Nigeria has wasted a lot of money on importation in the past.
Earlier, in his opening remarks, Dr Yomi Kasali, NCAM acting Executive Director, told the minister that the Centre has the mandate to mechanized Nigeria’s agriculture.
He said the Centre has carried out research that has led to the design and development of several simple low technologies cutting across the value chains of roots and tubers, grains, cereals, fruits and fibres.
“These technologies have made tremendous positive impacts on the productivity and efficiency of our farmers,” the Director added.
Kasali said NCAM has come up with ‘NCAM Triketor’ which was the first made in Nigeria tractor capable of carrying out the operations of the conventional tractor, but at a smaller scale.
The Director, therefore, appealed to the minister to assist the Centre to produce more units of these machines.
Dr Kasali listed the challenges of the Centre to include, capacity building, training, funding for research and extension of technologies and research output.