NISRAL flags-off North-South rail transportation of cattle

Hauwa Noroh Ali, Gusau

Nigeria’s Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) has flagged off the Farm to Market initiative in Gusau Zamfara State Northwest Nigeria with 15 wagons of 500 cattle to Lagos South west Nigeria.

The journey will take 48 hours and will see more cattle being transported from the North to the South under more comfortable conditions,the final stop is at Oko-Oba cattle market in Lagos.

The Firsts phase of the  scheme will move cattle from the northern part of the country to markets in the south by rail estimated at a  total value of live animal trade between the northern and southern parts of the country to be at  between N850-N950 billion yearly.

According to its latest figures, the total value of the Northeast-Lagos cattle trade market alone is estimated at N324 billion yearly. Excluding the North-South East cattle trade or the trade in small ruminants (sheep and goats).

This initiative is under the National Farm to Market Scheme to enable a low cost and efficient transport link between agricultural producers and consumers across the country.

The scheme is projected to reduce the cost of transporting cattle from the north to the south by over 20 per cent, minimise injury and cattle death in transit and also preserve 100 per cent of their value so that livestock breeders can get good price for their produce at the destination markets.

Under the scheme, NIRSAL, in line with its mandate to de-risk and incentivize investment into verified impactful projects across the agricultural value chain,  will provide bank guarantees for the financing of critical requirements involved in the movement of the cattle including logistics and  equipment.

Connect Rail Services Ltd, a bulk freight and logistics service provider, is the first technical partner on this aspect of the scheme.

Gov. Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara, who was represented by the Deputy Governor of Zamfara State, Mallam Ibrahim Wakkala Muhammad, commended NIRSAL for the innovation in rail transport of farm produce and also praised the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari for reviving the ailing rail system.

The governor, who called for the extension of railway into the nation’s towns and cities, said that the scheme would reduce the pressure caused by heavy trucks on Nigerian roads, address insecurity faced by marketers and provide employment to many youths.

He said an efficient rail system played a critical role in the revolution of the agricultural sector, adding that the initiative will afford farmers the opportunity to easily move products to all parts of the country, and with wider access to markets as well as enhance their profitability.1 (2)

He added that the impact of the new initiative would be felt all over the economy.

He said the state would continue to partner with any initiative that boosts the agricultural potential for people.

NIRSAL Managing Director, Mr. Abdulhameed Aliyu said the event signaled the beginning of the Livestock Transportation Component of NIRSAL Farm to Market Scheme which aims to link livestock breeders in the north to markets in the south in a safe, cost effective and profitable manner using the rail system.

He said:  “What we have witnessed today is the culmination ofrigorous and consistent effort to demonstrate that agric in Nigeria can be innovative and business oriented. The transportation component launched today is only the first part.

He added that on the security front, the movement of livestock will reduce incidences of cattle rustling, herdsmen and farmers clashes which are a source of concern to the current administration.

The NISRAL boss stressed that the initiative would result in wealth creation for farmers and allied industries, job creation, inclusive economic growth farmers and small scale Agric-business entrepreneurs,diversification of national revenue and GDP amongst other benefits .

In his remark at the event, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, who was represented by the ministry’s Director of Agricultural Transformation Agenda, Mr Olasupo Abioye, said the scheme was aimed at maximizing value through rail transportation and committed leadership that would impact on the lives of the common man.

The minister, who said that the nation’s annual budget alone cannot handle the issues of food security, employment generation and improved welfare, urged Nigerians to come out and participate fully in the scheme.

Also speaking at the event, the Managing Director, Connect Rail Services, Mr. Edeme Kelikume said: The potential of rail in boosting exchange between the north and the south is immense. As logistics providers we are excited at the magnitude of this scheme and the massive impact it is going to have on the economy.”

He said that the initiative which was a historic one was one which all hands must be on deck to ensure its sustainability; he added that if this sustained Zamfara state would be transformed into a transportation hub for livestock and mark a new means of economic diversification.

He stated that over the past three weeks, as part of a test run of the historic initiative, cows were transported from Jebba to Lagos by rail within two days in a journey that takes several days by road.

The arrival of the cattle in much better condition than herded cattle generated excitement in Oko-Oba, a famous abattoir in Lagos.

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For his part Director Development Finance Central Bank of Nigeria Dr Mudasir Olayitan stated that the scheme is projected to reduce the cost of transporting cattle from the north to the south by over 20 percent, minimize injury and death of cattle while in transit and also preserve their value so livestock breeders can get good price for their produce at the destination markets.

He added that this would lead to the solving one of the major problems in given that yearly 30% of livestock and produce are lost post harvest due to lack of infrastructure for storage and transportation.

He added that the revival of the trains would help solve part of this problem and add economic value to the farmer.

Furthermore, it was disclose that discussions with respected global names in refrigeration technology on the design of the refrigerated chilled containers are ongoing.

In an interview on the sideline of the flag off the Chairman Nigerian Cattle Breeders Association Zamfara Branch Alhaji Aminu Gusau stated that the transportation of cows by rail would boost the economy of the state and help to encourage inter-state trade and also encourage trade by batter .

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He added that the using the rail to transport livestock would save the about 50% of what they normally spend to transport it by road “ the roads around Jebba in Niger state north central Nigeria are bad and we lose about one third of our cattle if an accident occurs and for a truck we spend about N250,000 but now using the train which is safer and the journey shorter we will spend about N120,000 and the beauty of it is that the coaches carry twice as much as the trucks would “

NIRSAL’s mandate is to catalyze a national agricultural revolution by boosting food productivity and food security through the mechanism of de-risking the agricultural value chain in order to encourage investment by banks and the entire financial sector.

The focus is to enable a structured, sustainable and business oriented approach to agriculture that can stand the country in good stead in the emerging post oil Nigerian economy.