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The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) on Tuesday charged rice farmers in Cross River on loan repayment.

The President of RIFAN, Mr Aminu Mohammed said that the loan repayment was collected for rice cultivation in the state.

He said this during a RIFAN delegate congress in Calabar.

Mohammed, who was represented by the National Vice President, South-South of RIFAN, Mr Emmanuel Ano said rice farmers in the state had refused to repay loans collected from the CBN, claiming it was supposed to be a democratic dividend, not meant to be repaid.

“RIFAN programme is private sector driven and all inputs given to rice farmers for cultivation is a loan which the farmers ought to pay back, most of the farmers confuse the programme to be a government initiative but it is a business run by the private sector.

“Cross River got in route into this programme because of the support of Gov. Ben Ayade through his agricultural revolution plan by establishing a rice seedling factory and a rice mill in Ogoja.

“In between the production of viable seedling and the milling which will turn the rice into marketplace products, we discovered a gap which is cultivation; this is where the farmers come in.

“The most effective tool to get through rice production in Cross River is RIFAN, this is why in collaboration with the CBN, RIFAN get loans for rice farmers in the state through the RIFAN/CBN Anchor Borrowers programme to help farmers cultivate.

According to him, the loan which comes in the form of agricultural inputs is administered through Unity Bank of Nigeria and is signed by the RIFAN chairmen of the different rice producing LGAs in the state for onward distribution to the farmers.

“When the chairmen sign for these materials on behalf of the LGAs and farmers come to collect them for their rice cultivation but after cultivation, refuse to pay back, the loan will be placed on the chairmen.

“So, do not joke with this loan, the CBN has been lenient with rice farmers in the state because the initial plan was for the farmers to repay the loans in one year.’’

He said that the repayment agreement is four 75 kg bags of rice paddy, which would be assembled at a designated place to form a rice pyramid to be inspected by a team of CBN, RIFAN and other officials from Abuja.

“The chairmen need to educate the farmers and encourage them to pay back their loans, any farmer terrorising a chairman and refusing to repay the loan with exactly four 75kg bags of rice paddy would be arrested,’’ he said.

He however added that rice farmers in the state should speak up about their challenges so that solutions would be proffered for success in RIFAN programmes in the state.

Similarly, Dr Akpan Umoren, the Head, Development Finance Office of the CBN, Calabar branch said the apex bank was ensuring that rice farmers in the state were effectively cultivating rice by providing loans for the farmers.

“CBN has opened the door of its strong room to pump money into Cross River through agricultural inputs for rice farming and get back rice paddy from the farmers.

“Our target is that by the end of 2020, we should not buy rice for more than N14, 000 per 50kg in Cross River.’’

Umoren said that Cross River was blessed with rice cultivation, and has a rice mill that the state government was building where some private individuals were also establishing theirs.

“I urge you all to reciprocate the gesture of the Cross River government and CBN as we want to raise money through rice production to fight youths unemployment but this can only be achieved through collaboration,’’ he said.

Other events that took place during the congress include the appointment and oath taking of the new, acting Cross River RIFAN executive to strengthen the activities of the organisation in the state.

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