By Tony Obiechina, Abuja
The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has so far supported over 4.8 million small scale farmers across Nigeria for the production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock since the programme was introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) six years ago.
President Muhammadu Buhari made the disclosure while unveiling the FCT Mega Rice Pyramids at the International Trade Fair Complex in Abuja on Tuesday. Each of the 13 Pyramids has one million bags of rice.
He said, “today rice production in Nigeria has increased to over 7.5 Million Metric tons annually. Prior to the introduction of ABP, the average production in Nigeria between 1999 to 2015 was less than 4 metric tons annually”. Each of the 13 Pyramids has one million bags of rice.
The president explained that “the bags of paddy will be moving straight from here to rice milling plants across Nigeria, which lead to the release of processed rice to the markets by the rice millers. The measure will aid our efforts at reducing the price of rice in Nigeria”.
He pointed out that before his administration launched the ABP, there were only 15 standard Rice mills in Nigeria, adding that “as at today, we have over 50 Standard and integrated Rice mills creating jobs and reducing unemployment”.
“We expect additional significant output when two new mills are started in Lagos and Katsina. I am also aware that because of the large margins in this business, more people are showing interest in investing in our agribusiness”, he added.
The President who commended the CBN for the initiative said the ABP is no doubt a testament to the fact that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is working.
“Indeed, these sky-high pyramids for which we are gathered here to commission are part of our commitment at achieving national food security and economic diversification through home-grown policies targeted at securing food for all Nigerians.
“As a critical policy of the government, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is expected to catalyse the agricultural productive base of the nation, which is a major part of our economic plan to uplift the economy, create jobs, reduce reliance on imported food and industrial raw materials, and conserve foreign exchange.
“In the implementation of the Programme, adoption of high-yielding seedlings, quality inputs and best farming practices were essential features. For instance, the improved rice seedlings have helped to ensure our achievement of rice sufficiency, as they are disease-resistant and have an average yield of about 5 metric tonnes per hectare, compared with the traditional national average of 1.5 metric tonnes. This has resulted in bridging our rice consumption gap, a significant reduction in rice imports, and saved us foreign exchange.
“The commissioning of these rice pyramids today, is an indication that our country is making steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production, and it is my desired hope and expectation that other agricultural commodity associations that are yet to participate under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme will emulate the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in supporting our administration’s drive for food self-sufficiency.
” I would like to seize this opportunity to commend the Central Bank of Nigeria for its recent efforts at resuscitating the Nigerian Commodity Exchange following my approval to do so. This has been done, in the hope that our farmers can have ready buyers of their produce, thereby resolving the current logistical challenge of moving their produce from farm to markets.
“Let me also commend the Governor and staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as the leadership of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria for the successful delivery of these pyramids, which hopefully is just the first of many that will be unveiled this year across Nigeria”, the President said.
In his remarks, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele said The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has catalyzed the rural economy and has built a sustainable framework for financing small holder farmers in Nigeria.
The Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria said that with Nigeria producing about nine million metric tons of rice as of the end of 2021, the country has now become the highest producer of rice in Africa.
He said the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has catalyzed the rural economy and has built a sustainable framework for financing small holder farmers in Nigeria.
The apex bank governor added that the expansion in the production of rice has not only made Nigeria the largest rice producer in Africa, but has also unlocked enormous private sector investment in the rice value chain.
Specifically, Emefiele said that the number of Integrated Rice Mills has grown astronomically from six in 2015 to over 50 in 2021 with many more in various stages of completion.
The programme, according to him, has developed an ecosystem among all nodes of the agricultural value chain, adding that these linkages can be better optimized through synergy among all stakeholders.
The CBN Governor said that as at the end of December 2021, the apex bank has financed 4,489,786 farmers that cultivated 5,300,411 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 States of the Federation and the FCT.
He said, “We are delighted that these efforts have yielded fruits in not just increasing the availability of rice, but also in moderating prices, reducing imports and increasing job creation in the country.
“For example, Thailand alone exported 1.3 million metric tons of rice to Nigeria in 2014. The ABP was launched in 2015 to curtail these imports, and since then, we have seen incremental reductions in rice imports from Thailand.
“By 2016, rice imports from Thailand had fallen to only 58,000 metric tons. As of the end of 2021, they only exported 2,160 metric tons to Nigeria, thereby saving us foreign exchange and helping preserve jobs in Nigeria.
“Beyond increasing our national output from about 5.4 million metric tons in 2015 to over 9 million metric tons in 2021, we have also significantly improved the productivity per hectare of the smallholder farmer from about 2.4 metric tons per ha in 2015 to between about 5 metric tons per ha in 2021.
“These expansions have not only made Nigeria the largest rice producer in Africa, but has also unlocked enormous private sector investment in the rice value chain as the number of Integrated Rice Mills grew astronomically from 6 in 2015 to over 50 in 2021 with many more in various stages of completion.”
He explained that currently, Nigeria’s milled rice can compete effectively with the foreign rice in quality.
He added, “Our experience over the years has been transformed to operational efficiency of the Programme. We have added several layers of controls to improve on transparency and accountability among all stakeholders and what you are witnessing today is a demonstration of our growth and a strong indication of the enormous potential in the Country’s agricultural space.
“It is important to note that this is still a far cry from the desired goal. However, the growth processes reaffirm our belief in the potential inherent in our agricultural space and we can hopefully harness them to lead the diversification agenda of the economy.”
The CBN Governor said the mega pyramids being launched today represents aggregated paddy rice submitted as repayment of loans by RIFAN farmers under the 2020 dry season and 2021 wet seasons.
Beyond the event, he said the ABP also symbolizes the efforts made by farmers to commit to loan repayment through produce submission and ultimately ensure the sustainability of the Programme.
To further create value and transfer these gains along the value chain, he explained further that the bank has mapped millers to off-take these paddies, noting that that the CBN will track the release of their outputs to the market so as to manage inflation and grow the rice value chain in Nigeria.
“The Programme has developed an ecosystem among all nodes of the agricultural value chain and these linkages can be better optimized through synergy among all stakeholders”, he added.