Farmers See Govt Loan As Their Dividends of Democracy, Refuse To Pay; Why Members Default, Says RIFAN

….RIFAN attributes Anchor Borrowers low loan recovery to re-sale of inputs


From Joseph Amedu, Lokoja


Zenith Bank has expressed dissatisfaction over farmers’ attitude toward repayment of loans obtained through the Anchor Borrower Scheme.

Mr Oluwaseun Arigbade, the Regional Agric Finance Officer, Zenith Bank, said this at a programme tagged: “agricultural training for banking professionals of finance service providers” on Tuesday in Abuja.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, The programme was organised by the GIZ Competitive African Rice Initiative (CARI) with focus on the rice sector in Nigeria.

Arigbade said that the level of devotion on the part of farmers was huge, adding that farmers often saw such gesture as their own dividends of democracy.

He said that though the anchor borrower scheme remained a good idea, however, stressed that it had not been a huge success because of bad attitude of loan repayment by farmers.

“The experience we have with farmers is bad, they don’t want to repay their loans because they feel it is government’s money and it is free.’’

He said that banks often denied funding production because of the risk involved in such ventures, adding that they would rather fund the processing instead of production.

“What we can do as a bank is to organise some of these farmers into groups to make them have a structure so that they will not be coming as individuals to access loan.

“It is very difficult as farmers to get loans individually, they need a structure the bank can hold responsible,” he said.

Dr Lisa Wenger, Agricultural Finance Advisor for CARI said that the mentality that banks had toward farmers had to be changed, adding that farmers were not stupid as the banks would want them to believe.

She said that farmers knew what they wanted, adding that in spite of the nature of the job, they often went the extra mile to provide food for the country.

Wenger said that responding time for loans by farmers should be an urgent matter, but bankers hardly treated such with the urgency it deserved.

“Farming activities have to do with season and time and once you have missed the time, it affects the yield in the end.

“If we don’t support agriculture, what are we going to eat in the future, so there is need for the banks to support farmers,’’ she said.

Meanwhile, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kogi chapter, on Thursday attributed the low recovery of Anchor Borrowers Scheme input credit facilities to some farmers’ penchant for resale of the inputs.

Mrs Rabi Emaiku, chairperson of RIFAN in the state who disclosed this while addressing newsmen in Lokoja said the activities of the “political” farmers was undermining the objective of the scheme at boosting rice production in the country.

Emaiku said the culprits who got enlisted and registered as farmers but without farmlands had also made recovery of the loans given under the scheme as farm inputs, very difficult.

“They sell the inputs lower than the cost at which they were given. They resell each pumping machine given to them at the cost of N39,000 for as low as between N10,000 and N12,000.

“Fertilizer given to them at N6,950 per bag they resell for between N2,500 and N3,500. At whose loss is this. It is annoying because they will have to pay back the loans or others will not benefit.

“That is why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Unity Bank, RIFAN and other stakeholders have resolved that a farmer will have to pay 20 per cent of the total value of the inputs approved for him to access i” she said.

She said N114.3 million was recovered in 2019 as repayment for the loans and remitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from farmers who were not affected by the flood that devastated the riverine areas and swept off farm crops in the previous year.

Emaiku however said that approval had been given for 9,708 rice farmers in the state to access the facilities in 2019 adding that distribution of inputs, based on payment of the 20 per cent commitment, started two weeks ago.

The total package of the facilities per farmer according to her, amounts to N231,500 adding that those who found it too big could go for half.

According to her, in 2017, 731 farmers benefitted from the first RIFAN project in the state for dry season farming while in 2018, 11,706 farmers benefitted from same programme across the state.

The RIFAN chairperson decried the devastating effect of the 2018 flood saying that farmers went to farm with high hopes of bountiful harvest but “Suddenly, we were attacked by the flood and everything we planted was destroyed by the devastating flood and I had to cry to Abuja.”

Emaiku commended Governor Yahaya Bello for payment of the 2019 counterpart contribution to the Anchor Borrowers Scheme which made it possible for the state to be reconsidered