By Jimoh Babatunde
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that the nation’s quest for self-sufficiency in rice production will soon be realised going by the by the standard and quality of rice locally produced as well as level of commitment and vision demonstrated by local rice farmers and millers
Buhari stated this while inspecting rice products of one of the nation’s leading local millers, the Elephant Group Limited in Birnin Kebbi at the inauguration of the 2015/16 Anchor Borrowers’ Dry Season Rice Planting Programme sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, a financing model for small-holder farmers, was part and parcel of the Federal government’s efforts to boost the nation’s Rice Production, Supply, Distribution and Consumption Value Chain.
Buhari said that CBN’s anchor borrowers’ programme can create millions of jobs for the youth across the country.
The President expressed optimism that the scheme would uplift the quality of life of peasants and small holder farmers in the country.
Earlier, the Managing Director of Elephant Group Limited, Mr. Tunji Owoeye, said with the change mantra vision of the Buhari administration “the President will take us to the promised land.” Owoeye, who doubles as both President, Rice Investors Group as well as Chairman, Rice Millers, Importers and Distributors Association of Nigeria (RiMIDAN), appealed to the government to ensure that the Private, Public Partnership model for the agricultural sector comes to friction in line with the Backward Integration policy.
He said the best way to address the Federal Government’s rice policy was to enable millers to have a back-up, whereby big model farms will give birth to small farms thereby creating employment and jobs.
“Again, the issue of smuggling needs to be urgently checked. Rice smuggling into the country has pushed most of our members out of business and made Nigeria lose huge foreign exchange revenue. We need to police the borders adequately to stop smuggled rice from coming into the rice commodity market,” Owoeye declared.
The Rice Value Chain Scheme, which is to be financed by the nation’s apex bank, the Central Bank of Nigeria [CBN], is expected to drive home the nation’s dream towards self-sufficiency not only in rice but food production.
Nigeria, according to available statistics, spends nearly $32 000,000,000 [Thirty-Two Billion US Dollars] yearly on food import even as 34% of infants and children are said to be malnourished, a situation which policy experts, described as precarious.
According to the Rice Investors, “There is greater need for all stakeholders in the rice production sector to key into the present administration’s plan to revitalise Agricultural sector as the main stay of national economy.
One of the ways to make the Rice Value Chain Scheme work is to check smuggling of the commodity into the country while promoting domestic rice production. We are ready to collaborate with government to strengthen the value chain approach for all agro-based products.
In a related development, rice investors have commended President Buhari over the appointment of Chief Audu Ogbeh as Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, describing the appointment as “putting the right peg in the right hole.”
“As a big nation endowed with human, material and natural resources, we should not only be able to feed ourselves based on our local initiatives and efforts but also, emerge as major player in agricultural products export business at the global arena.”
The stakeholders listed some interventionist strategies that could help to make agriculture the mainstay of the nation’s economy such as: need to make agriculture technology-driven; by employing and deploying opportunities in the Growth Enhancement Support Scheme [GESS], social media; provision of easy access to credit for farmers, storage facilities and strict implementation of land reforms among others.