| ABUJA, March 24
ABUJA, March 24 The World Bank said on Friday it
has approved a $200 million loan to Nigeria to support the
government's effort to boost small and mid-scale farmers.
The loan from the International Development Association, the
bank's low-interest arm, has a maturity of 25 years with a grace
period of five years.
Nigeria slipped into its first recession in 25 years last
year, brought on by low prices for its mainstay, crude oil. It
has been trying to diversify away from hydrocarbons, build badly
needed infrastructure and boost agriculture.
"Priority value chains ... will include products with
potential for immediate improvement of food security, products
with a potential for export and foreign currency earnings," the
bank said in a statement.
The funds will help tackle low yields, lack of seed capital
to set up agro-factories, low-level adoption of technology and
limited access to markets, it said.
Nigeria spends $20 billion a year importing food. With the
fall in oil prices, it has been running short of dollars, which
has also weakened the local currency.
Last month the government unveiled sweeping recovery plans
which included currency reforms to boost tax revenues.
It aims to achieve self-sufficiency in rice by 2018 and in
wheat by 2019 or 2020. By the latter date, it also hopes to be a
net exporter of rice, cashew nuts, groundnuts, cassava and
vegetable oil, some of the crops the World Bank loan is meant to
finance. But it also needs to tackle its poor transport network.
The bank said about 60,000 individuals will benefit directly
from the funding, of which 35 percent are women. About 300,000
farming households will be affected indirectly.
The International Monetary Fund is expected to warn Nigeria
by the end of the month that its economy needs urgent reform,
according to a report seen by Reuters that could delay talks
over $1.4 billion in budget support loans.
(Writing by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)