Plans are underway to restructure the Bank of Agriculture for better performance as the Federal Government steps up efforts to make agriculture the mainstay of the economy.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Audu Ogbeh, said the restructuring would enable more funds to be allocated to the bank for effective discharge of its duties.
According to him, beginning from next year, agriculture and agribusiness will witness a major turnaround in the country and farmers nationwide will have access to loans at single-digit interest rates.
The minister spoke at an interactive forum on agriculture organised by the Justice Development and Peace Commission of the Catholic Church of the Assumption Ikoyi, Lagos.
The forum, tagged ‘Treasure in our soil’, had in attendance the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Mr. Suarau Oluwatoyin, Professor Pat Utomi, and Engr. Emmanuel Ijewere, among other dignitaries.
Ogbeh, who urged youths to take advantage of the new developments in the agric sector, said the country could not afford to import food items it was capable of producing.
He said, “We are getting more money in next year’s budget. The target is to make agriculture more serious. But beyond the budget, we want to strengthen the BoA to the tune of N1tn from loans and whatever and bring down the interest rate to a maximum of seven per cent.”
Emphasising the readiness of the administration, the minister said the government would start planting cocoa in some states next year.
“We are launching the largest cocoa re-launch in our history. It will happen in February 2017 in Ondo State. The President will be there. The target is five million trees a year in 23 states,” he added.
The Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Suarau Oluwatoyin, who was represented by Mr. Folarin Olarinde, said the state government was doing so much to boost agriculture.
The host, Rev. Fr. Fortunatus Okeke, observed that agriculture was capital intensive, emphasising the need for government support in the sector.
The Coordinator, JDPC, Vicky Amede, noted that the forum was conveyed to give knowledge empowerment to young people who might be interested in agriculture since government emphasis is on it.