The Nigerian Incentive Based Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) and Connect Rail Services have inaugurated a new scheme to transport grains by rail from the North to the South.
The Managing Director of NIRSAL, Aliyu Abdulhameed, who inaugurated the service in Funtua, Katsina State on Wednesday, said it would offer farmers ready market and value for their produce.
He said that the scheme would also be run in partnership with the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC).
Abdulhameed, who was represented by Dr Maryam Yaro, described the scheme as unique, and said it was to connect markets, industrial zones and ports in the southern part of Nigeria.
He said that the first consignment of 800 tonnes of soya beans had left Funtua for Apapa port, to be loaded onto ships for export.
According to him, the initiative is another dimension to NIRSAL’s historic movement of cattle by rail from Gusau in Zamfara and Nguru in Yobe to Lagos, which was inaugurated in 2016.
“NIRSAL’s role in the grains by rail project is to facilitate bank financing for the purchase of necessary equipment through the provision of necessary bank guarantees, provision of insurance cover for goods being moved, and creation of all relevant linkages.
“The scheme will also serve to reduce cost of transportation, increase profit margins for farmers and provide a smooth link between exporters of agric produce and the local farmers who cultivate the grains in the north’’ Abdulhameed said.
He added, “It is our hope that this scheme will reduce the cost of transporting grains from the north to the south by over 20 percent, boost local production, boost exports and help to conserve scarce foreign exchange.’’
“This will no doubt result in wealth creation for small holder farmers of those produce, job creation, inclusive economic growth, diversification of national revenue and GDP amongst other benefits in line with the Agricultural Promotion Policy of the Buhari administration.”
Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the Nigeria Railway Corporation (NRC), Alhaji Usman Abubakar, reiterated NRC’s commitments to the scheme, as it would lower the cost of transporting agricultural produce, thereby, cutting down high cost of food prices.
He called on more companies to partner with the NRC in moving their goods across the country.
“The Nigeria Railway Corporation is happy to work with NIRSAL and Connect Rail Services to get this project off the ground’’ Abubakar said.
According to him, the project is good for the country in this time of recession because it will link farmers to markets and help export their produce.
“It is a project that works for the people and complements the efforts of government to diversify the economy,” he added.
The chairman recalled that over over 2000 cattle have been transported to Lagos since the launch of the cattle movement project in late 2016.
Also, the Managing Director, Connect Rail Services, Edeme Kelikume, said the scheme would revive rain transportation in Nigeria.
Kelikume enjoined farmers and other business owners to embrace the initiative, and look into ways of adding more value to agricultural produce before export.
The event was attended by Olam representative, Ayaz Khatim, who noted that the scheme has openned new window of opportunities to small scale farmers.
The train named Oba of Benin left the Funtua rail station with 30 cabins fully loaded with soya beans.