The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele has maintained that the agricultural sector would not survive on high commercial interest rates from banks.
Emefiele was speaking at the Nigerian Agri-Finance Conference, themed: “Catalysing the Diversification of the Nigeria Economy through Effective Agricultural Finance” held in Abuja.
Represented by CBN Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, Mr. Adebayo Adelabu, the CBN Governor called for recommendations on how to better harness its enormous opportunities to diversify the Nigerian economy for sustainable growth.
Emefiele revealed that the agricultural sector was larger than manufacturing and oil sectors combined, creating over 70 per cent of informal sector jobs in rural agriculture.
He further said that despite the Maputo declaration of 2003, which requested that African Governments should commit at least 10 per cent of their annual budget to the agricultural sector, the country had not met even half of the allocation to the agriculture industry.
The CBN Czar said: “With an annual food imports bill of over N630 billion (decreased from N1.3trillion), unemployment rate of 9.9 per cent, and poverty, economic diversification is no longer optional but a necessity to reposition our economy to attain inclusive growth and global competitiveness.”
According to him, the exclusion “Effectively barred importers of these items from accessing the official foreign exchange window.
This is expected to discourage importation and stimulate domestic production through increased investment.
Towards this end Government set self-sufficiency targets for some of these commodities. It is 2016, 2018 and 2019 for tomato paste, rice, and wheat, respectively.”
“These attempts at stimulating local production of agricultural commodities were to complement existing credit delivery initiatives to boost productivity through value chain approach.
“In this respect, you will agree that agriculture and agro-based industries remains most fundamental to these diversification efforts as a major contributor to the gross domestic product (GDP) in the country. Governments in other climes have also recognised the importance of the sector by providing incentives for its growth.”