By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
ABUJA — The current scarcity of foreign exchange confronting the country is being turned into an advantage through the local production of goods for which hard currencies were hitherto wasted.
Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said this during an assessment tour of the farmlands cultivated under the Anchor Borrowers Programme in Kebbi State, weekend.
A statement by the Acting Director of Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, in Abuja, yesterday, quoted the governor as saying rice output from Kebbi State alone had proved wrong, critics of the apex bank’s forex policy measures.
Emefiele noted that with the level of success attained with the pilot project in Kebbi State, in addition to what he saw at Sunti Golden Sugar Estate in Niger State just recently, the country could produce enough to feed itself and even export in no distant future.
Agriculture, bedrock of genuine economic growth
The governor reiterated that agriculture remained the bedrock of genuine economic growth of any nation, adding that Nigeria could not be an exception.
As such, he said Nigeria with large expanse of arable land ought not to be spending huge amounts of money on importing food items at the expense of other competing needs.
The CBN governor stated that the success recorded by rice farmers in Kebbi State had rekindled hope in the ability of Nigeria to be self-sufficient in rice and wheat production.
He noted that with N210,000, each farmer was able to cultivate a hectare of rice farm.
He disclosed that a total of 78,581 farmers were mobilized in Kebbi State under the Anchor Borrowers Programme and that the farmers are already looking forward to a total of one million metric tons rice this year.
Speaking further on what the programme had been able to achieve, the CBN governor stated: “With the disbursement of N4.9 billion as loans to the farmers, over 570,000 direct jobs have been created and saved with the multiplier effects.
“70,871 rural farmers now own and operate bank accounts and captured under the Bank Verification Number (BVN) biometric project and timely supply of inputs to 73,001 farmers.”
According to the CBN governor, the performance of the Anchor Borrowers Programme has vindicated the stance of the apex bank and that given the incentive and appropriate support, Nigerian farmers can fill whatever gap exists between the demand and supply of agricultural products like rice, wheat, cotton and palm produce.
On his assessment of the programme, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbe, said the level of activities in the rural areas visited by the team had shown that with Kebbi State alone targeting one million tons of rice out of the projected seven million tons required by the entire country, self sufficiency in rice production is very much in sight at this time when 12 other states identified as rice producing belts harvest their produce.
He commended the efforts of the CBN for reinventing agricultural practice into profitable business venture.