The Federal Government has lifted millions of Nigerians out of poverty, create jobs, reduce reliance on imported food and ensured food security through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), President Muhammadu Buhari has said.
The President spoke at the official unveiling of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) rice pyramids at the Abuja International Trade Fair, supported by the CBN.
Describing the rice pyramids as evidence of the people’s capacity to produce what they eat, the President urged Nigerians to measure his administration’s economic strides through its achievements in agriculture.
After six years of its introduction, the President said ABP has become one of the reference points in his administration’s agricultural revolution efforts to achieve economic diversification.
Through the programme, he said the CBN was able to encourage investments in agriculture; empower smallholder farmers as drivers of transformation in the agricultural sector, and provide as critical enablers of economic growth.
Apart from increasing access to finance by the rural farmers, he said since 2015 the ABP supported over 4.8 million smallholder farmers nationwide for the production of 23 agricultural commodities, including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock.
Also, through the ABP, the President said rice production in the country increased from an average of less than four metric tons annually between 1999 and 2015 to over 7.5 million metric tons annually.
Besides, he said the ABP resulted in the growth in the number of standard rice mills in the country, from only 15 in 2015 to over 50 standard integrated rice mills today, apart from jobs created, with attendant impact on the reduction in the unemployment rate.
He said the government expects additional significant output from two new rice mills to become operational in Lagos and Katsina.
The ABP, the President said, was part of the government’s commitment to achieving national food security and economic diversification through home-grown policies to achieve food security for all Nigerians.
“The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is expected to catalyze 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,” he said.
For instance, he said the improved rice seedlings used under the ABP helped to ensure the government’s achievement of rice sufficiency, as they are disease-resistant, with an average yield of about five metric tons per hectare, compared with the traditional national average of 1.5 metric tons.
This, he said, resulted in bridging the country’s rice consumption gap, and significantly reducing rice imports, and saving foreign exchange.
The CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, acknowledged the vision of the President for food security and the determination of the farmers to help realize self-sufficiency in food production in the country.
The CBN governor said the President’s vision of making agriculture one of the focal points of his administration prepared the country for the unanticipated impact of COVID-19 on food production, with its associated disruptions in production and supply chains, which resulted in global increases in the price of most commodities.
Acknowledging the resilience of the smallholder farmers and the leadership of the various commodity associations for their diligence and patriotism, Emefiele said they battled the challenges of insurgency, banditry, lockdowns and other related setbacks.
Despite losing some farmers to insurgency attacks nationwide, and others unable to access their farms for several months, Emefiele said they persevered and did not abandon the fight for food self-sufficiency.
The ABP, the CBN governor noted, has catalyzed the rural economy and built a sustainable framework for financing smallholder farmers in the country, adding it has also developed the agricultural value chain.
On CBN’s contributions to financing the programme, Emefiele said as at the end of December 2021, about 4,489,786 farmers cultivated 5,300,411 hectares of land across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT.
“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,” he said.
He said since the introduction of the ABP in 2015, Thailand, which exported 1.3 million metric tons of rice to Nigeria in 2014, has curtailed its imports, with incremental reductions in rice imports.
By 2016, the CBN boss said rice imports from Thailand fell to only 58,000 metric tons, adding that as of the end of 2021, Thailand only exported 2,160 metric tons to Nigeria, resulting in foreign exchange savings and preservation of jobs in Nigeria.
Beyond increasing Nigeria’s national output from about 5.4 million metric tons in 2015 to over nine million metric tons in 2021, Emefiele said the country also significantly improved the productivity per hectare of the smallholder farmers from about 2.4 metric tons per hectare in 2015 to between about five metric tons per hectare 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 six in 2015 to over 50 in 2021 with many more in various stages of completion. Today, Nigeria’s milled rice matches the foreign rice in quality,” he said.
To build on the rice value chain development, Emefiele said the CBN commenced the “Brown Revolution” last year towards the transformation of the wheat value chain in Nigeria.
With wheat as the third most consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice, he said it was estimated that the country produced about one percent (about 63,000 metric tons) of the 5-6 million MT of wheat consumed annually in Nigeria.
He said this huge demand-supply gap was being bridged with over $2 billion annual importation of wheat, which accounts for the second-highest food import bill in Nigeria, thereby putting pressure on the nation’s foreign exchange reserves.
“We have concluded the first major wet season wheat farming in Plateau State and planted over 100,000 hectares of wheat across 15 States in the 2021 dry season. This strategic intervention will herald a progressive reduction in our wheat import bills over the coming years.
“We also established a Strategic Maize Reserve with the stock of maize submitted as loan repayment by our farmers. This will provide a buffer for price modulation for the poultry and feed mills nationwide.
“A total of 241,656.76 MT was aggregated in the 2020 wet and dry seasons, out of which 217,218.53 MT has been disposed to 18 millers and poultry farmers through the Poultry Association of Nigeria.
“The programme was able to stabilize the poultry and livestock sectors during the pandemic and saved the industry and consumers over N10 billion in raw material costs,” Emefiele said.
On the resuscitation of the Nigeria Commodity Exchange (NCX), the CBN governor described it as another strategic initiative to enhance the food security drive of the government, adding that a vibrant commodity exchange would significantly enhance post-harvest handling, reduce wastages and guarantee effective pricing for farmers.
Besides, he said the exchange would also minimize the adverse effects of the activities of middlemen, commodity hoarders and ultimately transfer the gains from primary production to other nodes of the value chain.
He said NCX aligns with CBN’s resolve to take outputs as loan repayment under the ABP and the produce to drive the operations of the commodity exchange going forward.
The CBN, he said, was currently exploring a new rice seed variety with Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) that has the potential to deliver over eight tons per hectare, with the pilot programme scheduled to commence in the 2022 dry season, with the potential to become the game-changer for the rice sector in Nigeria.