Thursday 29 August 2019
N3.4bn cassava bread loan won’t be written-off, BoI tells Bakers’ Union
Bakers Association of Nigeria under the N3.4bn Cassava Bread Intervention Fund.
The Cassava Bread Fund was created by the Federal Government in 2008 as part of the transformation policy in the agribusiness sector.
To ensure that Nigeria becomes the largest cassava processor having occupied the position of largest producer of the commodity in the world, and guarantee the reduction of food import bills; a number of measures including the cassava bread policy were endorsed by the Government.
Government’s intervention in the cassava value chain by funding Cassava Processors and Bakers would translate to foreign exchange savings and job creation along the cassava value chain and also prevent post-harvest losses.
The initiative was aimed at providing equipment and working capital support to Master Bakers and High Quality Cassava Flour processors across Nigeria.
Speaking at a meeting in Abuja with members of Masterbakers union, the Chief Risk Officer, BoI, Dr Ezekiel Oseni, said the objectives of the Federal Government for cassava bread production was being threatened due to the high non-repayment rate of the loan.
For instance, he said that about 94 per cent of the loan collected by High Quality Cassava Flour Processors have yet to be repaid while 86 per cent of loans collected by Master Bakers are still outstanding.
The implications of this, he noted, was that it would be difficult for the government to provide more funding for the sector.
Without adequate funding, he said the objectives of government in conserving foreign exchange, creation of jobs along the cassava value chain, and prevention of post-harvest losses may not be achieved.
He described suggestions by Master Bakers Association of Nigeria for the loans to be written off as unrealistic in the light of current economic realities, adding that the association should do all it could to encourage its members to repay their debt.
He said, “We identify with the challenges you face in your business. There is no business operating in Nigeria today that does not have challenges.
“We are not happy with how loans are not being repaid. 55 beneficiaries sold the equipment given to them. This is a breach of the contract.
“One of your members in Port Harcourt removed the generator from his factory and took it to his hotel. You must collect this money back and give it to us.
“The government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has said the money must be repaid. BoI must collect the money because about 90 per cent of the loan is being threatened due to non-repayment.”
The Permanent Secretary, FMARD, Mohammed Umar said the kind gesture of the government to the sector was being frustrated as a result of the non-repayment of the loans.
He said nine out of every ten members of the association that took the loan are yet to repay their indebtedness.
Earlier, the National Secretary of the Master Bakers Association of Nigeria, Jude Okafor, urged the government to write off the interest on the loans to make it easier for the debt to be repaid.
He also urged the government to extend the repayment period of the loan to about ten years.
He pleaded with the government to stop the use of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and other security agencies in harassing members of the association that are yet to repay their loans adding that steps are being taken to offset their indebtedness.
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