As part of measures to ensure the continuous production of food in the country, the Federal Government has disclosed that it has concluded plans to roll out the Growth Enhancement Support scheme (GES) for the dry season farming.
The announcement is coming amidst the controversy trailing the non-settlement of outstanding claims of agro-dealers and input suppliers, which resulted to financial institutions refusal to provide loans to agro-dealers and input suppliers.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development however assured that it was working with the Ministry of Finance to provide funds for the settlement of the debt maintaining that in no distant time the money would be paid.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr Shehu Hamed during the GES preparatory meeting for stakeholders held on Thursday in Abuja said the program would be implemented in all the 36 states of the federation and farmer would be provided with seeds, fertilizer, and agro-chemicals at 50 percent subsidy rate.
He said the target is to reach 1.5 million farmers under the rice, maize, wheat, and groundnut adding that their input packages would be made available to them at redemption centres.
He disclosed that the Federal Government would implement the GES alone without the involvement of the state governments so as to reduce the influence of state officials on the redemption claims to be obtained and the late payment to agro dealers and input suppliers.
The Permanent Secretary who was represented by the Director of National Agricultural Seed Council, Dr Philip Ojo disclosed that three bags of fertilizers made of two bags of NPK and one bag of Urea among other micro nutrients would be given to farmers.
He said some of the problem encountered when the GES programme was implemented in 12 pilot states include the use of tablets for redemption, payment of logistic support to helpline staff, late commencement of roll out resulting to poor turn out of farmers, late deployment of inputs due to scarcity of products and financial limitation of agro-dealers and input suppliers to purchase the inputs.
Other problems include shortage of urea in the country; non-finalization of the GES amended Nigerian Incentive Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) Memorandum of Understanding.
On the security threat posed by fertilizer the permanent secretary assured that the stock movement especially fertilizers would be tracked by both the Ministry and the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) in order to provide the actual data on fertilizers being delivered by the supplies to each agro-dealer.
He further maintained that for the 2016/2017 dry season farming the ministry would ensure that there is strict compliance to the use of only irrigable land with adequate irrigation facilities adding that only state and regional offices field staff would be used as helpline staff while the NYSC corps members would be used to complement the staffs.
A member of the National Board of Trustee, Agro Dealers Association of Nigeria, Alh Samri Yari said given the current economic situation in the country, government need to intervene in the provision of seeds and fertilizer for the farmers, but appealed to the federal government to immediate pay up the money owed them.
He lamented that some of agro dealers have died as a result of debt being to them by government and banks are unwilling to support them and if care is not taken it may affect the distribution for the dry season farming.