Ogbeh decries high import duties on agricultural inputs

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The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cheif Audu Ogbeh,has said the country’s import duties on agricultural machinery and other inputs were too high.

Speaking at the opening of the ongoing 2018 Seed Connect Conference and Expo in Abuja, Ogbeh said the situation was a disincentive to agricultural investment in the country.

He said his ministry was taking the matter up with relevant authorities.

“We are taking this to the Nigeria Customs Service and the Minister of Finance; we have to bring down the duty on agricultural produce.

“We are already debating it if the duty of tractor is five per cent, why impose another duty on tyre which is a spare part?

“It is supposed to be zero but they pay Value Added Tax; I don’t know why they should pay VAT.

“We have to do something to make it cheaper. In other country, they are soft in agriculture.

“The credit line is three or 2.5 per; duties are removed; they subsidise exportation of their agricultural products,”.

The minister said the Federal Government, also through the ministry, was working with ICT giant, Google, on farm mapping in the country, using GPS technology.

This, he said, would make it easier for government to keep track of farmers in the country, in addition to aiding agricultural planning and financing.

Ogbeh also spoke on the country’s status regarding attainment of the Maputo Declaration, which recommended allocation of 10 per cent of national resources to the agricultural and rural development sector.

He said the the Federal Government and individual states were currently performing around 3.5 per cent each.

“At the federal level, however, there are 36 states with Federal Capital Territory making it 37.
“If you look at cumulative budget of the states and add it to the federal government, we will be dealing with close to that 10 per cent.

“However, the WHO says we should give 15 per cent to health, and UNESCO says 25 per cent to education and if you add all these per percentage, it is 20 per cent of the country’s budget.

“Our problem is the salary and overheads. We spent money on salaries and can’t retrench people anyhow,”.

The minister said the government was taking concrete steps to sanitise the seed sector, which he described as the foundation of agriculture.

In his address of welcome, the Director-General of the Agricultural Seed Council (NASC), Dr Olusegun Ojo, said the conference was aimed at finding lasting solutions to the challenges facing the country’s seed sector.

“We are here to look at the seed industry in Nigeria, yesterday, today and where we are going to tomorrow.

“We want to look at some of the challenges facing the sector, we are trying to develop a roadmap to move from the problem we experienced in the past.

“At the end of the day, quality seeds will be available to farmers,” .

He noted that the NASC Act amendment bill currently before the National Assembly and seeking to strengthen the council’s regulatory powers would impact positively on the sector when passed and signed.

Mr Richard Olafare, President of the Seed Entrepreneurs Association of Nigeria (SEEDAN), hoped the conference would address the plight of farmers concerning adulterated seeds.

Olafare, however, defended registered members of the association against accusations of seed adulteration, saying nobody should point accusing fingers at them.

The  two day conference organised by NASC in collaboration with SEEDAN, is being attended by about 10 international seed companies.

The forum has its theme, “The Nigerian Seed Industry: Evaluating the Seed Scetor and Developing a Sustainable Framework to Bolster the Growth of the Seed Industry”.

The minister later launched helplines (07000073337/070000seeds) for farmers to report seed companies involved in the sale of adulterated seeds.

 

Arinze A/NAN