Chairman, Folhope Nigeria Limited, a company renowned for large scale agricultural production, Chief Emmanuel Ogunnaike, in this interview by NURUDEEN ALIMI, enumerates reasons it became imperative for the Nigerian government to ban the importation of all agricultural commodities farmers in the country can produce locally.
As a major stakeholder in the agriculture sector, what are your expectations from the incoming administration both at the federal and state level particularly Oyo state where some of your businesses are domiciled?
As I used to say in the past, fixing of rural roads is very important because without good roads within the rural areas farmers won’t be able to do much. It would go a long way if farmers should have access to very good and motorable roads within the rural and semi-urban areas. Also, the issue of electricity supply as I used to say must be thoroughly looked into because without regular electricity supply industries be it farming or any other can not excel if regular electricity supply is not in place. All these things are very essential and added to it is the provision of farm equipments, the government should provide farm equipments to assist farmers such as tractors and earth movers this would go a long way in moving agriculture business forward. Also, we are requesting for tax exemption for farmers, things are not easy for farmers they are only enduring we have no alternative to food and to guarantee food security, we need to go into farming but the farming business right now is not rewarding as it used to be, therefore, we require government support in all aforementioned areas.
It was reported that Nigeria spent millions of dollars to import palm oil into the country in the past years when we can produce locally particularly in a large scale. What do you have to say to this sir?
We are appealing to the government to ban any commodity that can be produced locally most especially palm oil and grains anything we can produce locally should be banned because if you do not ban what we can produce locally, farmers won’t be encouraged. But knowing fully well that if they produce their palm oil they would be able to sell at a profitable price they would be encouraged to go into large scale farming of plam tree, grains and all others. So, we are advising that anything that can be produced locally in this country should be banned.
Are there areas you feel the present administration has done well that you want the incoming administration to improve upon most especially as it relates to agricultural policies?
The current government are doing their best but the best is not even enough right now. They should do more and the problem facing farmers are what we are enumerating.
Do you think farmers are getting adequate loans to enhance their productivity?
Government should give loans to farmers to help them but the loans must not be interest-free because any loan that is interest-free is not the best because when it is interest-free the money may not be sufficient for farmers. Therefore, we are not calling for interest-free loans for farmers but it can be one digit interest that is under 10 per cent. But the money should be given to seasoned farmers and not political farmers or absentee farmers. This is where governments are finding it very rough and difficult therefore, if they really want to give loans they should give it to practicing farmers not political farmers or absentee farmers. Those that are taking loans in millions and billions are not core farmers even many practicing farmers do not have access to these loans we are talking about so they should not allow the issue of loan to be paper pages policy they should make it real to seasoned and practicing farmers. They should have a body that would be monitoring these after they might have gotten the loan that actually they are using it for what it is meant for and not collecting agriculture loan and diverting it to transportation business, hotel business or any other business that does not related to farming. That would not be the best.
Do you have an idea of how government can identify real farmers from political farmers?
Let us be frank with one another, if they really want to give loan to practicing farmers they know them. But when it comes to bargaining with one another, collusion to do injustice they know how to handle it. If they really mean business, they can easilly give loans to seasoned farmers through coopeartive bodies. Any farmer that belongs to any association they will find out from your association if truly you are real farmer or farmer in disguise. Therefore, if they go through their cooperative bodies, like the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) we have a body and we know ourselves. If anybody is seeking a loan we will know what will be given to you based on your level of operation so also all other farmers have their professional bodies they can through them and carry out investigation on how genuine they are before giving out loans. But even those that give the loans know what they are doing they know the core farmers and the fake ones.