This was contained in a statement today, May 4 and jointly signed by Voices of Food Security (VFS), All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), the Association of Small-Scale Agro-Producers in Nigeria (ASSAPIN), Ogbonge Women Farmers’ Association, Small Scale Women Farmers Organisation in Nigeria (SWOFON)
and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria. (RIFAN).
The group expressed concerns that smallholder farmers are not given adequate support by government or well catered for in its palliatives even as they grapple with the challenge of feeding the nation during the lockdown and immediately afterwards.
“We applaud the government’s prompt efforts at ensuring that the Emergency Economic Stimulus Bill was signed into law. We also applaud the Central Bank’s unveiling of its plans to inject N3.5 trillion to support the economy through a stimulus package.
“We acknowledge the priorities accorded these various efforts, namely to: give tax relief to corporate bodies who keep the job of their employees intact during a window period of January to December; put a moratorium on mortgage plans enjoyed by Nigerians; and suspend import duties on medical equipment, medicines, and personal protective gear; reduce interest rates from 9% to 5% on its existing intervention programs over the next year; plans to create a N50 billion targeted fund from which households can access a maximum of N3 million and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) can access a maximum of N25 million; and introduced credit support for the healthcare sector.
“Most recent Federal Government guidelines for the movement of agricultural produce to curtail food shortages and ensure effective 2020 crop production is appreciated. However, there is still silence on how smallholder farmers who have already suffered losses can be compensated.
“We observe that these palliative and recovery windows may well work for the manufacturing and other sectors, but we are concerned that they do not adequately cover the needs of agricultural sector stakeholders let alone meet the nations needs of smallholder farmers who presently face the challenge of feeding the nation during the lockdown and immediately afterwards.”
The stakeholders regretted that Farmers Associations are not strictly termed as SMEs, and will likely not be eligible for SME financing from the CBN, adding: “yet, these funds are very much needed.
“This is especially important as we consider the needs of farmers in the rainy season planting period.”
According to the farmers, the fall in oil prices further highlights the need for improved economic diversification in the country to ensure our economy’s resilience to external shocks, stressing that smallholder farmers make up the vast majority of food producers in the country, and we need the support of government to be more viable economic actors.
To address the challenges, the stakeholders recommend that government, “Work with smallholder farmers associations and farmers support organisations like us to come up with ways in which access to finance facilities can effectively support agricultural value chain actors, especially male and female smallholder farmers.