When President Buhari pledged to commit billions of Naira and Dollars to revamp agricultural activities in Nigeria with a view to changing the fortunes of the country and her farmers, wailers in their usual style cried wolf where there was none. They vehemently opposed it on the premise that it was going to be a wasteful excercise and one that will only enrich its promoters.
Years after the introduction of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, ABP domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on November 17, 2015, Nigerian farmers are today the largest beneficiaries of the programme.
ABP, which was intended to create a linkage between anchor companies involved in the processing and small holder farmers, SHFs of the required key agricultural commodities like cereals comprising of rice, maize, wheat; roots and tubers comprising of cassava, potatoes, yam, ginger; tree crops comprising of palm oil, cocoa, rubber; legumes comprising of soyabean, sesame seed, cowpea; cotton; sugarcane; tomato and livestock comprising of fish, poultry and ruminants among others.
So far so good, Rice production in the country has topped the list with a very encouraging return on investment by government, individual farmers and groups.
The thrust of the ABP is provision of farm inputs in kind and cash for farm labour to small holder farmers to boost production of these commodities, stabilize inputs supply to agro-processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food.
Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor had stated while unveiling the 2020 wet season harvest aggregation and flag-off of the 2021 wet season input distribution in the South-West geo-political zone in Ekiti State that the bank has committed more than N300bn under ABP in the southern part of the country.
According to Emefiele, under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, ABP a total of 3,107,890 farmers had been financed for the cultivation of 3,801,397 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT since inception have been captured.
It is on record that under the 2020 wet season CBN-RIFAN partnership, the bank also financed 221,450 farmers for the cultivation of 221,450 hectares in 32 States while as part of efforts to boost food production locally, CBN had planned to cultivate a minimum of one million hectares of rice through partnership with members of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN.
The Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) said the country is in discussion with West African countries for rice exports as its current production capacity can satisfy local demand.Prior to the coming on stream of the PMB initiative to rejuvenate agriculture through ABP in 2015 in the country especially on Rice farming, we were producing between 1.5 to 2.5 million metric tonnes per annum.
With the support of ABP, Aminu Goronyo the National President of had stated that RIFAN alone produces between 8.5 to 9.5 million metric tons of Rice per annum which the country consume annually, while other farmers who are not under the Association production takes the country’s local production to about 11 million metric tons.
While assuring that Nigeria has enough rice to satisfy local demand, Goronyo said there is a continuous increase in production with the support of CBN’s Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
It is also on record that Nigerians consume a minimum of 7.5 million metric tons to a maximum of 9.5 million metric tons per annum.
In the words of Goronyo, Nigeria has “more than enough Rice to consume. We have achieved self-sufficiency in Rice production. Nigeria is ready to not only feed its citizens but also export the excess Rice we produce”.
Regretably, the current high cost of Rice and other foodstuff in the open market in the midst of availability is a big concern to Nigerians from all walks of life. A number of reasons can be adduced to this misnomer. Such include fluctuation of exchange rates and the importation of the inputs used in cultivating Rice and other agricultural commodities.
Given the level of progress made by Rice farmers in Nigeria, RIFAN has signed an MOU with Benin Republic government officials for the arrangements to be perfected that will be a win-win situation for Nigeria and Benin Republic in the area of the rice value chain.
“What they requested from us, is the way we did it in Nigeria and achieved these successes and where we are today, that is exactly what they want us to go and replicate in their country, then in return, they will also be able to give us support that will establish the kind of rice business between the two countries in the area of processing, packaging and marketing,” he said.
However, a new report by the UK based think tank, Institute of Development Studies, has mischievously placed Nigeria as the second poorest country in the world in terms of food affordability.
The report, which was compiled through a publicly available global cost-of-living database, Numbeo, was used in creating a ‘cost of food basics’ analysis that compares the monthly minimum recommended spend on food per adult and monthly average wage in 107 countries across the world.
The Cost of Food Basics found that, more than one year since the outbreak of COVID-19, there is vast disparity between countries in terms of the proportion of average wages needed to afford enough food.
The top listed 10 countries where basic food is least affordable in are Syria, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Indonesia, Algeria, Iran and Uzbekistan.
According to the report, basic food is least affordable in Nigeria where 101 per cent of the average wage is spent on food.
Despite all the challenges, Rice farming in the last 4years or so has turned to be a blessing to the country and a gold mine to farmers in the country that has produced millionaires, courtesy of CBN’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP.
Be that as it may Nigeria’s current Rice and other commodities high cost is a major threat to the economic stability of the country that needs Federal Government’s urgent support to avert a major catastrophe.
Ilallah writes from Abuja