Nigeria needs additional 750,000 tractors to meet global farm mechanisation, Dizengoff West Africa Country Manager Antti Ritvonen has said.
Ritvonen said at a briefing in Lagos that the level of mechanised in farming was below 30 per cent, pointing out that “Nigeria is far behind and in the very early stage of mechanisation, there is so much more tractors needed.
“Recently, I read some statistics indicating that Nigeria has a deficit of over 100,000 tractors for mechainsation. If you compare with 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.”
He said he was advocating not just the provision of 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.
Ritvonen said the cost of tractors, which was around N10 million had prompted the firm to partner commercial banks to find solutions for customers.
He said: “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 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.’’
He stressed that for the sector to make greater gains, the government would need to continue investing, supporting agricultural mechanisation, such as granting preferential policies to support funds for famers, enterprises to purchase machines.
According to him, the level of farm mechanisation in Nigeria requires more to be done in terms of introduction of better equipment for each farming operation in order to reduce drudgery, to improve efficiency by saving on time and labour, improve productivity, minimise wastage and reduce labour costs for each operation.
Ritvonen said 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.
He said greenhouses give farmers a way to ensure that their crops are safe from pests and heat.
He noted, however, that many farmers failed to get good profits from greenhouse crops because they could not manage the two important factors that determine plant growth and productivity.
He added that the management of insect pests and diseases is the biggest challenge in greenhouse farming.
To this end, he said his organisation trains would be greenhouse growers on pest control and good agronomical practices.