Friday, June 6, 2014

Agribusiness Group Assures Of Support for FG of Nigeria

Agribusiness Group Assures Of Support for FG
Less than six months of its establishment, the Nigerian Agribusiness Leadership Group (NABG) seems set to fully assume the status of a legally recognised private sector corporate entity. The chairman of NABG, Sani Dangote, made the disclosure in Lagos on Monday, during the visit of Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, at the Institute of Directors, Ikoyi .

"We are laying a foundation," Dangote said, explaining that the group is "coming up with framework and institutional draft and vision statement of the association." He underscored these decisions on the basis of the increasing realisation "that agriculture is the mainstay of the economy."

According to Dangote, NABG is "very well positioned for the task," as a "custodian for all agribusiness issues in Nigeria." He noted that NABG will have a databank on produce, agricultural processes and information" and can become "a reference point for agricultural development in Nigeria. "

Dr. Adesina, while corroborating Dangote, noted that "we cannot go far on agricultural transformation in Nigeria without the private sector." He added that private sector is the engine of growth, stressing also that, for foreign direct investment (FDI) attraction into this country, "it needs the big business people to engage."

"What we are doing now," Adesina continued, "is making sure that government does what it should do, to unlock potentials, give incentives that can make things work, with an objective to grow together." He said he looked forward to the members of the NABG to identify particular agricultural commodities that can be given attention, "so that we can unlock their potentials."

The minister assured that President Goodluck Jonathan will be persuaded to convene a meeting of the Agricultural Transformation Implementation Council (ATIC) to enable stakeholders raise issues of interest in agricultural investment. He advised NABG to have its own corporate persona and be the face of agriculture in Nigeria.
Going forward, the minister said, the government is going to further harmonise its functions and be better streamlined. He challenged the private sector also to demand for critical agencies to work with. "The association should be built around institutions and right regulatory framework that can influence the government to act in specific desirable ways."

Dr. Adesina agreed that there are challenges in infrastructure, land security and finance. He emphasised that everyone needs access to finance, particularly in terms of interest rates. He disclosed that the new governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) was excited about the agricultural sector. Dr. Adesina added that commercial agricultural credit scheme has to be done based on evidence and listening to people who are involved.

As part of efforts of the federal government, at the ministry, the minister disclosed, "what we've done was to set up a $100 million fund domiciled with Sahel Capital," a company that was "chosen on a competitive basis." The fund, named Fund for Financing Agriculture in Nigeria, was set up by the federal government in partnership with KfW in Germany.
He urged NABG to take advantage of advocacy and investment opportunities afforded by the Staple Crops Processing Zones (SCPZ). He stressed the need by public and private sectors to co-develop the SCPZ as a game changer. To get commercial farms growing in Nigeria, he said, we need to have larger commercial farms for economies of scale and of scope.

To grow agriculture in Nigeria, the minister said he was not open to "any tariff regime" that will make Nigerias dependent on import. "We need a private sector engagement" and branding of agriculture in Nigeria. According to the minister, "we have begun the professionalisation of Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC). You are going to have a different kind of NAIC to deal with compared to what you had before."
On the private sector stakeholders' perspective, Dangote promised that NABG will enhance its values through stakeholders' engagement. "We will run independently and will not be seeking to depend on government; but we will support government." He stressed that long-term funding is a challenging issue."We look forward to friendly and conducive atmosphere of operation."

Asking further, Dangote requested for a 100% Presidential support of policy guidelines, emphasising on Customs/tariff system and infrastructure.

Reference: Fmard

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