A toll free call centre for farmers will be made available to the public in August, the managing director of a Kaduna-based tractor plant, Springfield Agro, Mr Tarun Kumar Das, announced during a briefing in Lagos.
He said the toll free call, which will be available in three major Nigerian languages, would allow farmers to discuss issues they face in their day to day activities on the farm.
Kumar Das said the initiative would tackle any problem related to farming ranging from cultivation, prices of insecticides and pest controls to other general farming-related issues.
According to him, the farmer will be given a choice to speak in English, Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo languages, adding that the customer service agents, who will be given free advice on farming issues may not have all the answers, but, "will attend to them accordingly because the major issues have been identified and the answers are already in the computer."
"From my observation, about 50 percent of the cultivation in Nigeria is done by hand and hoes while only 10 percent is through mechanisation. Others use ploughs and other small mercenaries. As of now, the situation in Nigeria is such that only about 30,000 tractors are active while the country needs about 10,000 tractors every year to achieve the needed level of mechanisation."
The MD of the two-month old tractor assembly plant in Kaduna noted that individuals need not to buy tractors as it is capital intensive, saying farmers could group themselves to procure and maintain it.
"Tractors are quite expensive and a small farmer cannot afford it. He really does not need it. If there is a group of farmers, it will be more viable financially and commercially. Tractors are needed primarily for the cultivation of lands and if an individual or the government has a tractor, he can give it out at a little cost, maybe a thousand naira per hectare for cultivation. So, not all farmers need to own a tractor, rather, all they need is an access to one whenever they want to cultivate their farms."
On the capacity of the newly-built tractor plant, he said Springfield Agro can produce 5,000 tractors in a year with 500 direct and indirect workers.