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Farming: FG, firm sign pact for 10,000 tractors




Okechukwu Nnodim, Abuja

The Federal Government on Thursday signed an agreement with an international tractor manufacturing firm to provide 10,000 tractors to rural farmers across the country.

According to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, the project will ensure effective delivery of the tractors to farmers in the 774 Local Governments Areas of the country through the 2,500 Agricultural Equipment Hiring Enterprises to be established in the respective locations.

The agreement was signed between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Nigerian Agricultural Mechanisation and Equipment Leasing Company and John Deere Tractor Manufacturing Company, in Abuja.

Ogbeh stated that for over 30 years, the Federal Government had repeatedly made efforts to address the agricultural mechanisation challenge in Nigeria, a development that affected the sector adversely.

He said the project would be closely monitored as farm inputs were being distributed across the local governments.

The minister said the initiative would help increase food production, adding that the government’s expectation was to realise one million tractors in 15 years.

He applauded the farm equipment hiring associations for their ingenuity, stressing the need to improve on the relationship with John Deere.

“In the next 15 years, we should be looking at something close to a million tractors in this country because dry season and irrigation agriculture has to grow. Not every farmer needs a tractor, not every farmer should or can afford a tractor, and since the bulk of our farmers are smallholders, they rely on the services you (John Deere) provide.” Ogbeh added.

Meanwhile, about 20 private firms have indicated interest in the Federal Government’s silo concession plan, the Acting Director, Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission, Mr Chidi Izuwah, has said.

Izuwah made this known on the sidelines of the signing of the MoU between the Federal Government and John Deere Tractor Manufacturing Company.

The ICRC acting director, who noted that the firm was notable across the world, said the move would improve the management of grains and reduce post-harvest losses.

He said that it would also create wealth for farmers involved in grains production.

“We have about 30 silo complexes built by the Federal Government in the country and some of them are under-utilised and abandoned,” he was quoted as saying by the News Agency of Nigeria.

Izuwah said that although the Federal Government would concession about 22 silos, it had maintained the management of about two to four silos for its strategic grains reserve.

He noted that the concession would last for 10 years, adding, “We have worked with the strategic grains department of the ministry to run a competitive and transparent process to bring in private sector partners to come in and take over the silos, refurbish them and put them to use for post-harvest management.

“This will significantly change the agricultural value chain because the government doesn’t have enough money to run them in terms of filling them with grains.”

Izuwah added, “So, we are going into a Public Private Partnership to bring some of the best people in the world to take over these silos and run them to the best for the country. This was started by the last administration and this administration continued with it because they saw the transparency of the process.

“We have certified it now; so, hopefully, within the next one month, it will go to the Federal Executive Council by law to be approved; and once it is approved, we will reach commercial close and begin the implementation.

“I believe that within the next six months to one year, we will see the impact; the idea is to catch the next harvest season. This will improve service delivery and stop loss of grains.

“Of the about 30 silos, 20 are being given out as concession; so, there are about 20 firms involved in the concession for now, but the government kept about two or three of those silos for strategic grains reserve.

“If there is a food security issue somewhere, the government can release grains from there to serve the people. Concession is not transfer of asset. The asset remains the property of the government of Nigeria.”

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