The Sokoto state government has engaged traditional rulers to recover the N2.6 billion loaned to farmers last year under anchor borrower scheme.
The chairman, Immediate Framework for the Development of Agriculture in Sokoto state, Alhaji Chiso Dattijo Abdullahi disclosed this during a farm walk on 30,000 hectares wheat and Barley cultivation field situated at Taloka village in Goronyo Local government area of Sokoto State.
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The farm, a pilot project initiated by a private agro-firm, Foladapo Global Enterprise and Heritage bank was aimed at providing qualitative and certified wheat seeds to farmers.
Dattijo said the money was given to rice and wheat farmers but they were having problem recovering it.
According to him, the sum of N3.7 billion was earmarked for the project last year but only N2.6 billion was disbursed to farmers after the state government had paid the five percent initial deposit by each farmer and the 30% risk guarantee all amounting to N1.2 billion.
The former Executive Director of Lake Chad Research Institute, Maiduguri, the consulting firm for the pilot project, Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji said Nigeria was spending USD4.2 billion annually to import wheat from the United State of America.
According to him, Nigeria was only producing 625,000 metric tones of wheat as against its annual requirement of 4.7 million metric tones.
He wondered why such huge amount was being spent on importation of such commodity despite arable land suitable for production of varieties of wheat, including barley which was known as golden wheat.
He said as part of efforts to close the production gab, the Lake Chad Institute in Maiduguri, had developed improved varieties that could yield between five to six tonnes per hectare in addition to expanding wheat production to non traditional areas such as Kogi, Niger, Nasarawa and Kwara states.
He urged governments at all levels to create enabling environment and assist farmers across the country to enable them embrace wheat farming.
Also speaking, the Group Head, Agric Finance, Export & FMCG, Heritage Bank Plc, Mr. Olugbenga Awe, said the Wheat and Barley farm project is the first of its kind in Sokoto, and in the whole northwest states.
Awe who also represented Foladapo Global Enterprises described barley as a multipurpose commodity with comparative advantage in making malt, syrup and bread apart from its traditional uses.