Mr John Olateru is the Chairman of Commodities Farmers Association and former chairman of the Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Oyo State. He spoke on the likely effects of closing porous borders and what the government should do to maximize the gains. FEMI IBIROGBA presents excerpts:
Are farmers ready to produce enough food, especially rice and poultry products, for Nigerians?
It is good news that the government has finally acted on our demand to close porous borders. At least for the first time, we are trying to correct the wrongs. We will use the policy to stabilise and then form a kind of proper policy with all our neighbours.
Now that the border has been effectively controlled, people are now happily moving into agriculture. The needed market has been created, the demand for foreign food is disappearing. People are now having the courage to taste the locally made food and they are seeing the difference. It may be a little high at the moment, but I can assure you that people are now going into agriculture.
So, before the end of the year, prices will come down. It is a question of demand and supply.
The way we are going now, we are eating what we are producing, thereby creating more employment opportunities. More people are going into the industry. I can assure you it would not take long before things would start normalising.
Most Nigerians said local rice is tasteless although scientists have proven that it is more nutritious. What is your advice to Nigerians?
You see, what I have to say is that the machines used to process rice outside the country is what Nigerians are now using to process rice. They are now setting it up all over the country. Those complaining are living in the old order because the imported rice they are consuming is an expired good.
The so-called imported rice is just like poultry products; expired products they are using chemicals to preserve. But if you taste our own rice and locally produced chicken, you would see the differences.
Right now, prices are beginning to be stabilised. We are competing and things would start moving fine.
How has it been in the South-South and Southeast to access agricultural loans? Have farmers been able to assess loans?
What is happening is quite unfortunate. If you go to the north, their state governments are supporting agriculture to the letter. Each of the government is ready to sign up about 50 or 60 per cent of the loans, guarantying them for the farmers.
There is no business that you go into for the first time that you don’t run into problems. When we in the south go into any business in farming, we face many challenges. It looks as if they will crucify those farmers instead of encouraging us to do more and get stabilised. So, they now castigate all the farmers in the southwest as loan defaulters. There is no one that wants to be a defaulter of loan. The government should try and understand with us as well. Even in the north, they have their challenges. In Jigawa State, the first and second time they planted their soybeans and rice and some other states, they ran into problems. Their government supported them, but after a while, they are now enjoying the profits.
All the money they owed, they have been able to pay back. All that we need now is an encouragement.