By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
ABUJA— Nigeria’s foreign reserves have hit $42.8 billion, according to spokesman of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor.
Okoroafor, who disclosed this at a meeting with Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria, RIFAN, Wednesday, in Abuja, attributed the steady growth of the reserves to CBN policies targeting reduction in importation of goods, especially food that can be produced in the country.
Rice production under the Anchor Borrowers Programme remains a reference point in the bank’s efforts at conserving the nation’s foreign exchange.
He said: “CBN decided to go into the funding of rice and other agricultural produce because we felt that food supply is key if price stability is to be maintained – food makes up a disproportionately large portion of the basket of prices in the country. We decided to target food supply to bring down inflation.
“Second, we went into this business of funding agriculture because we felt that food, especially rice, was a key component of importation in Nigeria. It was, therefore, a key component in the depletion of our foreign reserves.
“So we felt if we could deal with rice importation and replace it with local rice production, we would be working at rebuilding our reserves. And I tell you, we have succeeded in meeting those two objectives. Our serves are up.
‘’The reserves have gone to $42.8 billion as at yesterday (Tuesday) and you can see the inflation figures have been dropping and we expect this to continue throughout the year.”
Wedneday’s meeting with RIFAN was the beginning of a new form of collaboration between the apex bank and commodity associations, through which to reach producers of various commodities in the country.
In his remarks, the President of the RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, said the association has keyed Nigeria into the global agric-business practice.
According to him, RIFAN has the capacity to handle the new collaboration with the CBN as over six million rice farmers in the country have been placed on a digitised platform with biometric cards through which each member could receive adequate inputs and funding.
Alh. Goronyo said that RIFAN has members in all states of the federation and Abuja, adding, that its members in 32 states were participating in the pilot project.
Under the platform, he said, members would enjoy the services of tractorisation, inputs suppliers, such as seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals, extension services and off-takers, stressing, “under the platform, a farmer gets his market at the entrance to his farm.”