The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday said the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) has proven to be a game-changer in the financing of smallholder farmers in the country.
He said the programme has revolutionised agricultural credit financing and remained the fulcrum of transformation initiatives in the sector.
The CBN governor also said through the use of technology to boost productivity, the the apex bank intended to work with farmers to achieve one million hectarage cultivation during the 2020 dry season from 500,000 hectarage in the preceding farming year.
Speaking in Minna, Niger State, during the national flag-off of the 2020/2021 dry season rice farming and loan recovery drive which was jointly organised by the CBN and Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Emefiele pointed out that beyond being a tool for economic empowerment, job creation, and wealth redistribution, the scheme had also galvanised financial inclusion in rural communities.
The event witnessed the ostentatious display of four massive rice pyramids apparently to prove critics wrong that the country currently lacks sufficient rice to feed its growing population.
The rice farmers insist that the country presently has sufficient commodity to feed its citizens as well as export to earn foreign exchange.
Emefiele said with the deployment of technology which covered farmers enumeration, biometric capture and GPS mapping of farms, all embedded to enhance the operational efficiency of the ABP, the 2018 wet season witnessed a geometric rise in beneficiaries adding that about 275,000 farmers were empowered to cultivate 220,000 hectares across all the 36 States of the Federation and FCT.
Represented by CBN Deputy Governor, Corporate Services, Mr. Edward Adamu, Emefiele stressed that since the launch of the ABP by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, rice has remained the focal crop under the programme given its crucial role in the diet of average Nigerians.
He said said with the current population of about 200 million, importation of any major food item will continually drain the country’s external reserves, export jobs to countries where these food items are produced and distort the commodity value chains as Nigeria will not be able to guarantee the supply of raw materials for its agro-allied companies.
He described loan recovery as the hallmark of any credit process adding that the combination of input distribution and loan recovery drive further demonstrated that the ABP remained a sustainable credit programme towards repositioning the sector.
According to him, the CBN has continued to enhance its risk mitigation strategies to guarantee the intended outcomes of the ABP.
He added that beyond rice, the commodity association Window has been expanded to cover more commodities including maize, cassava, sorghum, soya bean, ginger among others.
He said:”We are hopeful that all these efforts will contribute to our national aggregates and galvanize our drive to economic diversification.
“Despite the devastation caused by numerous floods in the 2018 wet season, farmers have been submitting produce and cash as part of their loan repayment but we need the association to intensify efforts in this regard in the spirit of the partnership and sustainability of the programme for the transformation of the sector.”
The CBN governor further pointed out that the partnership with RIFAN under the Commodity Association Window of the ABP was a flag-ship programme to explore the potentials inherent in agricultural commodity associations and position them strategically as drivers of enhanced agricultural productivity in the country.
He said linking the Divisions to the innovative financing model under the ABP delivered quality inputs and mechanisation services to farmers at a competitive price and the right time.
He noted that from a modest pilot of 75,000 farmers in 26 states, the RIFAN-CBN ABP had now been fully established in all states of the federation including the FCT.
Emefiele, however, observed that the participation of other commodity associations posed a leadership challenge to RIFAN to remain the lead association and role model for others in terms of members’ engagement and loan recovery.
Meanwhile, RIFAN President, Mr. Aminu Goronyo, told newsmen at the occasion that contrary to speculations that there’s no sufficient rice in the country, Nigeria currently has enough to eat and export to other African countries.
According to him, “They say there is no rice in Nigeria but we that are farming knew there’s rice, enough rice in Nigeria and more than enough to export to other African countries.”
“That is why we portray the Egyptian and Nigerian rice pyramids for all to see. The paddy that you see here is just a fraction of what we cultivated in Niger State.”
He said the success story in rice production is currently replicated across different parts of the country.
CBN Director, Development Finance Department, Mr. Yusuf Yila, however added that about 500,000 hectares will be cultivated Niger State alone under the new farming dispensation.