By Franklin Alli
MANUFACTURERS Association of Nigeria, MAN, has proposed the expansion of the scope of Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) to further boost production of key commodities and stabilize inputs supply to agro processors. Recall that the ABP scheme was introduced by CBN almost two years ago to boost domestic food production and save the country’s capital outflow as a result of about N1 trillion annual food import bill.
MAN President, Dr. Frank Jacobs, told Vanguard in a chat that the initiative was laudable going by the impact it has had so far on the agricultural sector of the economy. He stated: “We recommend that the scheme be expanded to include medium scale as well as large scale integrated processors to act as anchor companies, so as to increase private sector involvement in the scheme, in order to boost production of key commodities, stabilize inputs supply to agro processors and address the country’s negative balance of payments on food.”
According to him, the allocation of foreign exchange to the importation of such items such as rice, wheat, milk and fish, among others, had contributed greatly to the depletion of the nation’s foreign reserve, especially in the face of falling oil prices.
He said the ABP aims at creating economic linkages between over 600,000 smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilization of integrated mills.
This, he noted, would close the gap between the levels of local rice production and domestic consumption, as well as complement the Growth Enhancement Support (GES) scheme of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture by graduating GES farmers from subsistence farming to commercial production.
He disclosed that CBN had set aside N40 billion, out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund for farmers at a single- digit interest rate of nine per cent.