Nigerian Farmers In Distress To Repay Over N1trillion Loans After Flood Disasters

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Many farmers who collected loans from various agricultural intervention packages in the country for this year’s farming circle have been thrown into a dilemma on how to repay such loans as a result of devastating floods that washed away their farms.

Most of the farmers across the country suffered severe losses, with many unable to salvage anything from their fields, Daily Trust reports.

Experts in the country’s agricultural sector, including the National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Kabiru Ibrahim, an architect, have warned that this year’s harvest might not be bountiful as hectares of farmlands of agricultural produce such as maize, rice, cassava, potatoes, vegetables, among others, have been ravaged by floods in most communities in Nigeria.

Toyin Adisa, an Ilorin-based agriculturist, warned that if urgent action was not taken, the unfortunate incident might affect food supply in the country this year.

These warnings are coming at a time Nigeria’s inflation rate hit a 17-year high on the back of soaring food prices and supply chain disruption in September.

According to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBA), inflation rose to 20.8 per cent in September, the highest rate since 2005, up from 20.52 per cent recorded in the previous month.

The statistics also shows that the country’s food inflation rate for the month stood at 23.34 per cent on a year-on-year basis, recording a surge from the 23.12 per cent recorded in the previous month.

The 2022 floods, according to the AFAN’s president, are the worst Nigeria has seen since 2012. It destroyed crops in over 500,000 hectares of farmlands belonging to thousands of smallholder and commercial farmers across the country.

There are pains and agony as investments and livelihoods of many farmers were washed away within the tinkle of an eye.

Most of these farmers said they accessed loans from both the Anchor Borrower Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), some from commercial banks, some from micro finance banks and some from processors, especially rice farmers.

Figures at the beginning of the wet season this year showed that the CBN has reached over 4.8 million farmers and expended over N1 trillion to farmers across the country along 23 commodities.

Although the CBN gave out approximately N1trillion under the ABP, it only recovered N400 billion with about N600bn yet to be recovered.

However, under the Commercial Agriculture Credit (CAC), the bank lent out approximately N800bn and recovered approximately N700bn.

For many rice and maize farmers under the ABP, repayment is under threat. And many of these farmers have already been encumbered by last year’s payment.

Also, under the bank’s Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme, a total disbursement of about N744.32bn had been made for 678 projects in agro-production and agro-processing.

The amount so far repaid under the CACS could not be provided as at press time by CBN officials.

In July this year, it was reported that the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund, which is managed by CBN, had guaranteed 1.23 million loans given to farmers across the country.

The monetary value of the loans was estimated at N130.903bn. The Chairman, ACGSF, Stephen Okon, had said, “A total of 1,232,326 loans valued at N130.903bn were guaranteed from inception to May 2022 out of which 973,646 beneficiaries had repaid a total of N98.91bn.”

This implies that about N32bn had not been repaid by about 258,680 farmers under the ACGSF as at May this year.

A combination of the value of the various schemes indicated that the apex bank had invested about N1.874tn on the ABP, ACGSF and CACS.

Also, the summation of the outstanding repayments for ABP, ACGSF and the total disbursements for CACS indicated that about N1.4tn was still owed by farmers across the country.

When asked to comment on the repayment arrangements by farmers in view of the devastating flood, CBN’s spokesman, Osita Nwanisobi, declined to speak.

In Taraba, one of the worst hit states, hundreds of farmers who took loans from banks and rice processors are in a dilemma on how to repay.

Findings revealed that banks, grain merchants and rice processing companies have granted loans in cash and farm inputs, including chemicals under an arrangement that farmers pay back with paddy rice or maize after harvest.

But floods have destroyed more than 70 per cent of rice farms situated on both sides of River Benue in seven local government areas of the state.

Findings revealed that some of the affected farmers have collected loans, ranging from N8m to N400,000 to finance their farming activities this year.

Some of the banks that granted loans for this year’s farming season in the state include United Bank for Africa (UBA), First Bank, Union Bank, Agric Bank, as well as the ABP, under the CBN.

Some of the affected farmers told Daily Trust Saturday that their hope of repaying the loans and making profit at harvest was dashed by the floods.

One of the farmers, Alhaji Adamu Saidu, said he collected a loan from a grain merchant under an arrangement called ‘Bada kaka’ to pay after harvest.

He said this type of loan was common among many farmers in Taraba State and farmers collect money, fertiliser and pest and weed chemicals at the beginning of the cropping season and pay with farm produce during harvest.

Saidu said he invested over N2m in his three rice and maize farms with the hope of repaying the loan with paddy rice and also making a profit.

He said that as a result of flood, he may not realise up to 30 per cent of what he was expecting to harvest from his farms.

“My biggest problem is how to repay the loan. l hope the lenders would give me a grace of one year,” he said.

At Sheka, Gassol Local Government, which is one of the worst affected farming communities in the state, more than 50 farmers took loans from commercial banks for their activities.

Haruna Muhammed Sheka, the village head, was one of the farmers that took loans from commercial banks to grow rice. Others include Abdulrashid Garbo, lbrahim Gambo, Muhammed Adamu Sheka, Umaru Suleiman, Suleiman Isa and Yahaya Umaru.

In separate interviews they said they took loans from Union Bank, First Bank and UBA to finance their farming activities but repayment would be difficult this farming season.

In Niger State, over 20,000 flood affected rice farmers said they took loans with Lapo Microfinance Bank and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN).

One of them, Alhaji Mohammad Kudu said, “The major challenge is how to pay back our loans. We took loans to buy farm inputs with high prices because the rate at which prices of farm inputs went up this rainy season was unimaginable. We took fertiliser loans from RIFAN with a promise to pay after the harvest period.”

Another victim, Baba Edozhigi said, “The agreement was to pay back the loans after we harvested the rice before this flooding occurred. We are already in a serious problem with the RIFAN. We had a similar experience five years ago, which we still battle in court.

They called on the government to come to their aid to enable them settle their debts.

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