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'Nigeria requires $44.56bn to meet MDG in agrie' Emmanuel Addeh, Horin

HE Senior Special Assistant to the President on the Millennium Development Goals, Hajia Aminat Zubair, on Friday disclosed that the country would require an investment of about $44.56bn to achieve its target for agriculture. Zubair revealed this at the Agricultural and Rural Management Training Institute in 1I0rin, the Kwara state capital, during a lecture on policy formulation in the agric sector with the theme, "Public Private Partnership in Commercial Agriculture in Nigeria." The President's aide noted that given the low budget for agriculture and resource level of farmers, robust policies aimed at scaling up PPP in commercial agriculture was

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imperative.

She described Nigeria as " as aid orphan". which receives less than $2 per capita, while the average in Africa is about $28. She said," within the period 1999 and 2007, Nigeria received $6.084bn and only one per cent of this went to agriculture. However. a prOjected investment of $44.56bn in the agric sector is needed in order to achieve the MDGs."

Zubair lamented that Nigeria was facing "an agricultural paradox," with plenty agricultural resources and little to take care of the food needs of the country. According to her, "Nigeria

In his comments, the Acting Executive Director of ARMTI, Mr. Julius Onietan, explained that the choice of the topic discussed was in recognition of the

critical place of publicprivate partnership in the agricultural sector. Onietan noted that the national seminar underscored the role of

HE Managing Director of Crossover Savings and Loans Limited, Mr. Wale Alaka. has blamed t!'le poor growth in the economy of the country on the neglect of the informal sector. Alaka stated this in an interview with

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our correspondent in

Abeokuta, shortly after releasing the sum of NI00m soft loan facility to a group of informal sector operators. the Plank Sellers Association, Ogun State. "No nation's economy

can grow with the neglect of the informal sector. This group is the engine room of any nation's economy,"

he said, shortly after signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the association.

Alaka explained, "Credit is very key to any economy and anyone that wants to build a property needs plank, this people with their number over 20. 000 are so

becoming apparent that relying on smallholder farmers would not get Nigeria to the desired destination in food security.

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is not a poor country in terms of agrie resources,

yet food insecurity remains pressing. With a GDP of $207bn in 2008, Nigeria is the third largest in Africa, after South Africa and Egypt. Though starvation is rare, malnutrition and malnourishment

are

widespread in both urban and rural areas.': She listed the major constraints in the sector as underfunding, weak private sector linkages, inadequate research infrastructure and subsistence level of production. Zubair noted that other major challenges were inappropriate technology and low mechanisation, poor rural infrastructure, poorly developed storage system, dearth of reliable data and inconsistent policies and programmes.

• L-R: Winner of the Sauers Promo, Afribank Pic, Mr. Adolphus lwuchukwu; Group Managing Director, Afribank Pic, Mr. Nebolise Arah; another winner, Mr. Bashir Tijjani; and Executiue Director, Corporate Communication and Retail Banking, Afribank, Mrs. Joke Coker, during the presentation of car prizes to the winners, in Lagos ... on Thursday. Photo: Segun Bakare.

UTA announces discovery of new cassava varieties in Nigeria Layi Adeloye

HE Federal Government has released four improved cassava varieties that will boost production and keep the country in the lead as the

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world's largest producer of the root crop. The varieties, which are a product of a decadeold conventional breeding research, include what the International Institute for

Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, describe as "NR 01/0004, CR 41-10, TMS 00/0203, and TMS 01/0040." According to the institute. in a statement made available to our correspondent on

Neglect of informal sector blamed for poor economic growth Francis FaIola, Abeokuta

commercial agriculture and its capacity to help in achieving food security and attaining Vision 20:2020. He argued that it was

massive and they cannot be ignored in the building process. We believe once the prices of planks are reduced, the cost of building will be less. "We discover that most commercial banks have been focusing on the high profile formal sector, but we believe without giving this kind of assistance to this group, the informal sector, the economy will

not grow."

He explained that the soft loans given to the plank sellers was to boost their working capital. He said the support would assist the plank sellers in ensuring more

production of timber for export purposes and foreign earnings. He stated that the company decided to pick Ogun State because it is

one of the largest timber producing states in the country, adding that the state's proximity to Lagos was also taken into consideration.

He added that the disbursement of the soft loans to the plank sellers would be in tranches, adding that the support would stimulate lots of business activities in the state.

Wednesday, TMS 00/0203 and TMS 01/0040 were bred by an Umudikebased National Root Crops Research Institute and the Colombian-based International Center for Tropical Agriculture. respectively. On-farm pre-release trials involving local farmers in eight states of the country, the institute said, had shown that "the improved varietie3 out.performed local checks with an average yield of about 31 tons per hectare, as opposed to 26 tonnes per hectare recorded by the local varieties," adding that "farmers love the varieties for their excellent culinary qualities, high yield, and

S' African bonds weaker in early trade SOUTH African bonds were slightly weaker in early trade on Thursday, ahead of key auctions later in the day in Spain and Italy. Spain will auction between €2bn and €3bn of five·year government bonds, while Italy will auction up to €6bn of five·year and 15·year treasury bonds. The benchmark R157 bond was trading at 7.430 per cent from its previous close of7.415 percent, while the R207 was bid at 8.275 per cent from its previous

dose of 8.260 per cent. The R186 was bid at 8.425 per cent from 8.415 per cent. "A quiet start to the morning, we're slightly weaker. Today sees two key auctions - one in Spain, the other in Italy. Both should dear well. But the market is still uncertain about direction and, just because Portugal's auction went well, doesn't mean that Europe's debt problems have gone away. Yesterday we were a bit weaker after the local auction announcement - the market

was a bit uncomfortable about R213s and R214s," said a local bond trader. Standard Bank said that the US lO-year Treasury yield moved briefly above the 3.40 per cent level on Wednesday after spending time below 3.30 per cent at the beginning of the week and this influence proved more significant than Portugal's fairly successful government debt auction and rumours of another European rescue package, both of which helped calm European Monetary Union's

sovereign debt concerns. "For today, statements surrounding the monetary

policy announcements from the European Central Bank and Bank of England could prove most influential for SA rates," said Standard Bank. Foreigners were net

sellers ofR1.316bn of South African bonds including repo transactions on Wednesday, after buying R200,424m of local bonds on Tuesday, Bond Exchange of South Africa, statistics show.

resistance to pest and diseases." "The release of the varieties is good news for

Nigerian farmers in particular and African farmers in general. We expect to see more cassava produced

in Nigeria'· IITA Cassava Breeder, Dr. Peter Kulakow. was quoted as saying. Over the last decade. cassava has evolved in

Nigeria from a mere food security crop to a cash and industrial crop. Annual production has increased from 32 million metric tonnes in

1998 to 45 million metric tonnes in 2008, courtesy of the crop improvement·, programmes by IITA and other partners. "The new varieties seek to

strengthen Nigeria's leadership in cassava productioni. increase farmers' incomes

and guarantee food security. Although cassava is hardy and can survive where most other

crops cannot, it responds to good environments when it finds one," IITA said. Researchers have said that the key to mitigating changes in environmental

conditions and pest and diseases, among many others, depends on the deployment of suitable varieties that will not suffer from sudden changes in the environment.

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THE PUNCH, 14 JANUARY,2011