The Chief Executive Officer and Country Manager of Dizengoff West Africa (Nigeria) Ltd., Ritvonen Antti, has said that Nigeria was behind in the area of agricultural mechanisation.
Identifying the challenge in an interview on Monday in Lagos, he said that finance to drive mechanisation was the country’s major challenge.
According to Antti, “Nigeria is far behind and in the very early stage of mechanisation, there is so much more tractors needed,” adding that Nigeria had the potential of developing mechanisation in agriculture, but was behind other Africa countries.
“There are two major challenges in the development of mechanisation in Nigeria; one is the size of the farm and inability of government to give affordable finance to drive mechanisation. Recently, I read some statistics indication that Nigeria has a deficit of over 100,000 tractors for mechainsation.
“If you compare the rest of Africa in terms of mechanisation; Nigeria is like half of what is obtainable from average. Nigeria is very far behind and we are in the very early stage of mechanisation. Not just tractors but I mean mechanisation needed in Nigeria, we are taking baby steps but obviously we have to start from somewhere and Nigerian agriculture has so much potential,’’ he said.
Antti said that smallholder farmers had only benefited from mechainsation by establishing cooperatives and clusters to create a bigger unit, adding that the cost of tractors which was between N10 million had prompted the firm to partner commercial banks to find solutions for customers.
“You can get a good tractor from below N10 million and in line with this we have been collaborating very closely with leading service providers in the country. We have been trying to work with banks and other financial institutions to find some finance solutions for the customer. I will say that we have yet to get some results from these banks.
“What we found out is that local and commercial banks are not really friendly when it comes to agriculture financing. The high demands that the banks are setting is a limitation. What the banks are requesting for is like 200 per cent guarantee from customers and that is huge. The banks are not ready to take any risk whatsoever and it is not sensible or reasonable.
“The kind of financing mechanised agriculture in Nigeria needs is huge and government finance, very often are complicated for the smaller farmer who does not have a lawyer.’’
On the current state of agriculture in the country, the country manager said that before oil was found in Nigeria, agriculture was the mainstay of the economy.
According to him, mechanisation is only part in Nigeria because training and developing knowledge of the farmers is another big limitation as many still use obsolete farming methods.
“Anything that improves the knowledge of the farmers is a plus because many farmers still use very old traditional methods. Dizengoff closely follow all the technical development that in Nigeria.
“There is a lot of development which will improve the yields of farming but we are not looking at them holistically because maybe Nigeria is not ready for all of them. There is a limited amount of big commercial farms in Nigeria who can really use all these technology and knowledge.
“That is why we give training to our customers on how they can really use our equipment and machines to get the full benefits,’’ he said.
According to him, it is commendable that government is focusing on agriculture.