The U.S Agency for International Development, USAID, on Tuesday in Abuja launched a $15 million Feed the Future, FTF, Nigeria activity to boost agribusiness and improve at least, 5,000 small and medium enterprises.
The five-year investment plan, which will be implemented in Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi and Cross Rivers, also aims at growing the initial $15 million investment to $300 million with an expectation of $200 million in new agricultural finance and $100 million in new agricultural investments.
Dr Adam Saffer, Chief of Party, USAID’s FTF Nigeria activity, said the FTF agribusiness plan seeks to strengthen enabling environment to promote private sector investment in the agricultural sector.
Saffer said that to achieve this, the programme was focusing on three main components, which includes improving ease of doing business in the agricultural sector, broadening access to finance and promoting investment opportunities.
“Nigeria has tremendous potentials to becoming world class producer of grains and feed itself as well as feed the region.
“We believe that Nigeria has the ninth arable land in the world, plenty of good soil, rain, human resources so we are focusing on creating a legal and regulatory framework that is attractive to farmers.
“Secondly, is to get the banks to understand, to be more interested and to reduce the risk of making loans in agriculture, so this could be bank loans but they could also be input loans from the agro processors.
“The third pillar is attracting investment into the agriculture arena, creating new plans, new feed mills and not only bringing in Nigerian investors but international investors.
“At the end of the day, we are looking at the agro business sector of Nigeria being not only able to improve incomes and job opportunities but also better quality food for the Nigerians.
“Lower import of food, better pricing along the value chain. Nigeria is one of the greatest potential to take advantage of the agric sector,” Saffer said.
The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, lauded the FTF project, saying it is in line with Nigeria’s plans of improving the agricultural sector and reducing the nation’s reliance on oil.
Osinbajo, who was represented by Dr Andrew Kwasari, his Senior Policy Adviser, said that the synergy between the Federal and State Governments and the United States was strategic to achieving the FTF Nigeria plan.
The vice president said that the agric sector was key to the growth of the nation’s economy as it employs the largest proportion of the nation’s pollution, which are the youths.
“When you take 15 million dollars and attempt to raise 300 million dollars that is the way of the future and that is the way spending as an enabler should be done by government and donors partners.
“This is the way that the Federal Government has been working and I believe that we can do more and the more that we can do is enabling the environment for agric businesses to thrive.
“We have seen a lot of progress in working with investors and partners in the agric sector across the country.
“Seeing in this room today the federal government, state governments and the United States working together is a good one.
“I hope to see more of this collaborations and we shall be exploring how best we can further this relationship,” Osinbajo said.
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, urged the Federal Government, state governors and partners, to work towards the sustainability of the FTF Nigeria agribusiness plan.
Symington said that it was the hope of the U.S. to see Nigeria growing something, packaging, producing, selling and even exporting agric produce.
“The goal of this project is to mobilize 300 million dollars of investment in Agriculture, amounting to more than N1 billion.
“It is a big piece but not a sufficient piece to meet the challenges ahead,” Symington said.
Governors and representatives of the implementing states present made commitments to ensuring the success of the FTF agribusiness plan as they called for support for a technology/mechanised driven agricultural system.