Naija Foodie Update

Foodie Naija Update (Lack Of Funds Threatens Agric Scheme, May Lead To Food Scarcity)

The Growth Enhancement
Scheme for food production
initiated by the former administration has suffered a setback as most of the incentives have been
suspended due to lack of funds; ANNA OKON writes The Growth Enhancement
Support scheme in its heyday was an insignia of pride and
achievement for the Ministry of agriculture and Rural
Development, under the leadership of former minister, Dr.

Akinwumi Adesina, who is now the
President of African
Development Bank.
The scheme, launched in 2012 as part of the
Agriculture Transformation
Agenda of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, was aimed at achieving food security, youth and women
empowerment, increasing income for farmers as well as
curtailing the activities of middle men in the sale and distribution of fertilizers and
seedlings in the country.

While speaking on the topic, “transforming Nigeria’s agriculture” at the inauguration of the Agriculture and Food Security Center of the Earth Institute
of Columbia University in New York in September
2013, Adesina listed the gains from GES and ATA, oting that the agricultural
sector had witnessed a major transformation since
he became a minister.

He said, “Within the first 90 days of my term as minister,
we ended four decades of
fertilizer sector corruption.

We launched the Growth Enhancement Support scheme to provide subsidised inputs to farmers.
To reach farmers directly with seeds and fertilizers, we
developed the Electronic Wallet System, which allows
farmers to receive subsidised electronic vouchers for their
seeds and fertilizers on their mobile phones.

Nigeria is the first country in Africa
possibly in the world to develop the electronic wallet
system for targeting farmers with subsidised farm inputs.

“The system worked
successfully. In 2012, 1.5 million small holder farmers got their subsidised seeds and fertilizers using their mobile phones. This had an
impact on 7.5 million
persons. So far this year (2013), over 3.5 million farmers have received their
subsidised inputs via the Electronic Wallet Scheme.

We have expanded the GES programme beyond crops to
provide support for fisheries, livestock and mechanization
services. To reach even more farmers, we embarked on
the nation’s first ever
registration of farmers.

This year, we registered 10 million farmers. Farmers now have identity cards that allow
us to use their biometric information to target them more effectively.”

The scheme, according to the
minister, accounted for food production which witnessed
a boost in 2014/2015.
Unfortunately, as it so often happens with most government projects, GES appears to have been run on
credit. By the time a new administration took over in May 2015, a backlog of
unpaid debts to fertilizer and seed companies, running
into billions of naira had accumulated.

Suppliers under the aegis of Farm Inputs Suppliers Association of Nigeria approached the new
administration in May 2015 with an appeal to the government to pay its own portion of the subsidy.

According to them, the amount outstanding to date,
being the subsidy portion of Federal and State Governments for which payment was yet to be paid to fertilizer suppliers was about N52bn.
Following the controversy and the huge debt
surrounding the scheme, the Federal Government, exactly
a year later, in May 2016, announced that it was withdrawing subsidy on fertilizer.

The decision did
not go down well with farmers as most of them withdrew from the farms.
The Director-General,
Nigerian Textile, Garments and Tailoring Employers
Association, Mr. Hammed
Kwajaffa, said since the suspension of fertilizer subsidy to farmers, the price
of cotton had escalated as the product became very
scarce because cotton
farmers had refused to go back to the farms.

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief
Audu Ogbeh, said the cost of GES scheme had become too
heavy for government to
bear.

According to him, the GES arrears were being paid by
the government out of sympathy and responsibility towards agro dealers.

“We had to look for money from our own sources at the
federal level to bear the liabilities of states,” he said.
Ogbeh, who spoke in
reaction to an online
publication alleging N2bn GES payment bribery against
the ministry, said, “When we arrived here, we were told
the bill for seeds alone was N9bn and I said, ‘No, I am a
farmer, how could you have supplied seeds worth N9bn?’
We scrutinised the invoices and we were able to prune
the bill down to N2.5bn.

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