The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to facilitate $300 million investment across five crops in seven states in Nigeria under its Feed the Future Programme.
The U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington disclosed this on Tuesday in Abuja during the launch of the Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity.
The programme hopes to nurture a business-enabling environment for Agriculture in Nigeria. Mr Symington said it will reduce the cost of doing business.
“Through this initiative, the U.S government aims to work with the people of Nigeria to improve the ease of doing business in the agricultural sector,” he said.
Mr Symington said the activity will expand the number of financial institutions with growing agribusiness and finance portfolios in focused value chains.
“This will mitigate the risks of lending institutions. It will promote investment opportunities for Agribusiness to expand and scale up their operations,” the envoy said.
According to documents from USAID, the programme will reach at least 5,000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
“This will expand opportunities for agribusiness borrowers and lenders. It will strengthen the investment readiness of agribusiness. It will improve credit,” the document stated.
The five-year $15.7 million agribusiness investment programme is expected to end in December 2023.
The targets are rice, maize, soybeans, aquaculture and cowpea value chains.
The Agribusiness investment activity will be implemented by cultivating new frontiers in Agriculture in seven states; Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Benue, Delta, Ebonyi and Cross River.
It will work with a range of agribusiness stakeholders and counterparts including the Nigerian government ministries and other agencies.
The Feed the Future activity intends to facilitate the growth of existing private sector agribusiness and work with other selected agribusiness, including suppliers, financiers, investors, service providers.
“USAID’s launch of this activity aims to help improve the legal and regulatory environment for Agribusiness finance and investment while creating sustainable linkages between agricultural producers and processors.”
Also, the chief of party, Adam Saffer, said the overall objective of the activity is to measurably improve the agribusiness investment climate which plays a pivotal role in attracting foreign direct and domestic investment.
He said the programme focuses on five key pillars; enlisting public and private sector partners, connecting micro, small and medium enterprises (MEMEs) to agribusiness services; support the development of new financial products, linking MEMEs and entrepreneurs with larger firms and reforming policies that constrain the ease of doing business.
“Special emphasis will be given to MSMEs that are women-owned or have the potential to hire significant numbers of women and youth,” he said.
“The activity will involve, inform and coordinate with a broad range of stakeholders and counterparts,” Mr Saffer said.
Speaking at the event, the Governor of Cross River State, Benedict Ayade, said the sector needs finance and technology for improvement.
He said technologies are primitive in Africa and ” government on its part needs to play an important role to ensure this improvement.
“Calling on Nigerians to get involve in agriculture is a good idea but the Federal government must realise that marketing is not good enough,” he said.
“How will they go when they do not have the capacity, technology and resources?” Mr Ayade asked.
He said the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) anchor borrowers programme lends N270,000 per hectare for the rice value chain. He said this will not be enough to clear a hectare of land
Also, the governor of Kebbi state, Atiku Bagudu, said efforts were being made in the state to improve the sector and unlock the agricultural potential.
“In the last five years, we have seen a significant improvement in the yield of many commodities. For rice, we have seen increase such as one tonne per hectare to six tonnes per hectare”, he said.
Mr Bagudu said a similar increase had been seen in other crops as well.
“We will unlock our access to local partners that are involved in the business”, the governor said.