Determined to curb perennial herdsmen-farmers’ clash, job creation and reduce the cost of some food staples across the country, the Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) has initiated a scheme to move cattle from the north to markets in the southern part of the country by rail starting from this week.
Speaking with newsmen in Abuja on Thursday, Managing Director/CEO of NIRSAL, Mr Aliyu Abdulhameed said the scheme, which is being operated under a partnership with Connect Rail Services, a bulk freight and logistics service provider, will also enable the transportation of tomatoes, vegetables and other perishable food items by rail within the next few months.
The scheme will also reduce pressure on foreign exchange and the depreciation of the country’s road network due to concentration of haulage activities on the road.
Under the scheme, NIRSAL in line with its mandate to fix agricultural value chains and create links between primary producers and the market aims to leverage private sector financing towards the provision of necessary state of the art equipment, storage and agric produce preservation facilities to ensure safe, efficient movement of agric produce from farms in the north to markets in the south.
It is projected to reduce the cost of transporting agric produce from the north to the south by over 20 percent, minimize wastage and spoilage of goods in transit by over 40 percent in order to preserve value so that farmers get good price for their produce at the destination markets.
Abdulhameed recalled that as part of a test run of the historic initiative, cows were transported from Jebba to Lagos by rail within two days in a journey that takes several days by road three weeks ago.
The arrival of the cattle in much better condition than herded cattle generated excitement in Oko-Oba, Lagos.
“The launch of the Farm to Market scheme is a tribute to the vision of President Muhammadu Buhari who made agriculture a central component of the Federal Government’s economic response to the steep and long standing fall in the global price of oil. NIRSAL’s mandate can best be understood within the context of the policy shift and clear commitment of the Presidency to agriculture”, Abdulhameed disclosed.
The NIRSAL boss stressed that NIRSAL only guarantees serious agric projects which are bankable in terms of proven business viability, of strategic economic relevance to the country and promotes inclusive growth and equitable distribution of value so that farmers and other players get better rewards for their efforts.
“We take our mandate very seriously indeed and NIRSAL does not guarantee financing for unserious or poorly thought out projects. We ensure that every kobo committed to every project we undertake counts for the economy and the people of this country.”
Also speaking at the event, the CEO of Connect Rail Services, technical partners to NIRSAL on the project, Mr. Edeme Kelikume said “we are proud to be partners with NIRSAL on this historic scheme that will take advantage of the low cost rail transport system for moving agric produce. As the leading indigenous bulk freight and logistics solutions provider we will commit our expertise and experience to ensuring that this scheme is a success”.
The movement of cattle only the first component of NIRSAL’s “Farm to Market” flagship programme designed to boost value and efficiencies across the agricultural value chain to market-focused food production and achieve greater equity so that farmers and other agricultural producers get more reward for their efforts.
Other elements of the Farm to Market scheme include: movement of perishable agric produce like tomatoes, dairy products, vegetables and others in refrigerated containers to preserve their value from the north by rail to the south; movement of meat/carcass in chilled containers designed that would be designed by reputable cooling manufacturers from state of the art abattoirs in the north via rail to markets in the south.
NIRSAL’s mandate is to catalyze a national agricultural revolution by boosting food productivity and food security through the mechanism of de-risking the agricultural value chain in order to encourage investment by banks and the entire financial sector.
The focus of NIRSAL is on enabling a structured, sustainable and business oriented approach to agriculture that can stand the country in good stead in the emerging post oil Nigerian economy.