By Babajide Komolafe
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has pledged to increase its support for rice farming across the country.
CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele made this promise while inspecting rice farms in Itane, Ketar Fulani and Gwadan Gwaji villages in Kebbi State.
Mr. Emefiele, who expressed satisfaction with the yield of farmers that hearkened to the clarion call to embrace farming as a business venture rather than mere subsistence, stated that major objectives of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) had been largely achieved.
According to him, the objectives of the ABP include assisting rural small holder farmers to grow from subsistence to commercial production level, increase capacity utilization, creating jobs, reduce poverty, and increase banks’ finance to agricultural sector among others.
Accompanied by the Governor of Kebbi State, Senator Atiku Abubakar Bagudu and the representative of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, Emefiele said that the ABP was yielding result due to farmers’ access to the correct seedlings, pesticides and fertilizer as well as the support from the State government. He also expressed confidence that the target of ensuring that Nigeria feeds herself would be achieved.
He therefore called on the farmers in the state to always forward their challenges to the Bank and other authorities for quick solution, even as he assured them of the continued support of the CBN. He thereafter enjoined members of the media to inspect the rice farms and report objectively.
While noting that the refusal of some farmers to register for the Bank Verification Number (BVN) had militated against their getting access to the ABP facility, the CBN Governor urged all farmers in the country to register for their BVN. He also assured that the ABP facility would be spread to many people as far as they got registered for the BVN, which he noted was on-going.
Also speaking, the Governor of the State, Senator Bagudu, who doubles as the Chairman of the National Task Force on Rice and Wheat, said the objective of the tour was to see how farmers and processors in the country were responding to the call by President Muhammadu Buhari as well as the impact of funds provided under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
While attributing the bumper harvest being recorded in all the 31 rice-producing states across the country to the political motivation by President Buhari as well as intervention efforts of the CBN and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, he said the goal of making Nigeria self-sufficient was on course.
Gov. Bagudu hinted that the state government was ready to provide paddies to millers on credit but urged the Federal Government to provide more silos in the state as many farmers were still holding paddies at their homes.
He commended the CBN for its intervention and assured the Bank that his government would continue to collaborate with the CBN to ensure the objectives of ABP are met.
Equally speaking, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, represented by the Director in the Ministry, Alhaji Azeez Musibau Olumuyiwa, assured of the Ministry’s commitment to work with the CBN to ensure the success of the agricultural intervention programmes, in line with the aspirations of the Federal Government.
Responding, the Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Kalgo Local Government chapter, Alhaji Aliyu Itane, denied the allegations that politicians were the ones benefitting from the programme. He clarified that only genuine farmers, who were screened and met all the necessary requirements of accessing the ABP facility, were benefitting from the programme.
While fielding questions from journalists, other farmers expressed their appreciation to the CBN Governor, and said that the ABP had increased their output and created jobs in the area. They also called on the state government to construct roads to the farms that would enable them repatriate the farm produce to the markets easily.
“The Itane farm has a coverage land area of 89 kilometres and to rice farmers in the area there is no economic recession. What is recession?” Alhaji Aliyu, one of the farmers, queried.
Meanwhile, farmers in the Zuru Emirate council have embraced soya bean production at commercial level as a way of diversifying agricultural activity in the state.
The soya production, which is presently being anchored by a private firm, ICMG, in partnership with Kebbi State Government, has leveraged on the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and BVN platform to register and capture over 5,000 farmers across three districts.
The ICM group, which will also serve as the off-taker, provides the farmers with improved seedlings, fertilizer and extension services.