By Akano Biodun
THE Anchor Borrowers financial intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has continued to provide interventions for agricultural revival in the country. Through the intervention, the apex bank is carrying out its five-year policy to grow the real economy from 2019 to 2024.
CBN acting Director, Corporate Affairs Communications, Mr. Nwanisobi Osita, who disclosed this in Lokoja, Kogi state, recently indicated that the policy which centres around establishing a firm and stable micro economic environment would pave room for low inflation, financial stability, exchange rate stability and efficient payment system.
The acting director’s opinion, however, is that the country cannot continue to import items and consumables which it has the capacity to produce.
As a result, he said the Anchor Borrowers financial intervention of the CBN, will lead to the production of a minimum of ten commodities that would make food to become readily available to Nigerians.
Osita remarks: “There must be a limit to importation of goods. We can grow tomatoes, rice, wheat, cotton and other consumables and CBN will continue to provide finance for farmers to grow those commodities and create jobs for Nigerians.” He explains that only a positive result from the Central Bank’s intervention can lead to reduction in the youths unemployment and underemployment of the country standing presently at a frightening 60 percent.
As a stakeholder in the agriculture sector in the country, one other commodity that the CBN has shown noticeable interest in is cassava production. Though Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of cassava tubers with 53 million metric tonnes per annum, the country imports cassava derivatives worth over $600 million each year.
Emefiele said the CBN places a high premium on cassava because the commodity can generally be used for different uses along several value chains. The value chains have enormous potential for employing over two million people in Nigeria if well harnessed. This is because of the diverse secondary products that it offers.
But the cassava industry suffers as a result of low yield varieties, poor farm practices, lack of good quality farm inputs, non-utilisation of available cultivable lands, manual system of production, inadequate funding for smallholder out-grower schemes and low processing capacity. To rectify this, the Central Bank of Nigeria has sponsored about 15,000 farmers to cultivate over 15,000 hectares of cassava farmland in 19 states as part of its efforts to use cultivation of 10 crops to create 10 million jobs in five years.
The big question, however, is how far has the intervention helped cassava farmers and processors in maximising profitability, creating employment opportunities and in diversifying the economy?
Most cassava farmers commended the intervention of the apex bank through collaboration with the Nigeria Cassava Growers Association to boost production.
They said the intervention has made it possible for cassava farmers to have ready markets for their produce, but they add that as good as the intervention by the apex bank is, the implementation has not been too good.
Some of the farmers want the apex bank to be more involved in the implementation of the Anchor Borrowers financial intervention in the commodity. They are asking the Central Bank of Nigeria to deploy its personnel to monitor the farms of beneficiaries.
They assert that the involvement of the apex bank’s personnel from land preparation to harvesting will boost cassava production in the country as it will afford the bank the opportunity to understand the challenges being faced by the beneficiaries first hand.
One of the challenges identified is the complaint about imposition of input suppliers on beneficiaries by those in charge. The farmers cited the issue of fertilisers supplied to them, which they commended, but said the packaging were poor.
They also note that most of the inputs like root cuttings, herbicides and fertilisers are more expensive from the accredited suppliers compared to what they are sold in the open market.
One of the farmers said: “Herbicides that we can get for N1,300 per litre in the open market are sold to us for N1,600. This is enriching the input suppliers to the detriment of we the farmers. Farmers should be allowed to buy inputs from anywhere they like and not be forced to buy from the accredited suppliers.”
Another challenge the CBN should address urgently is the non release of funds as at when needed. A farmer said land preparation fund was just released some weeks ago since last year with other funds still being awaited. “Why are they stopping farmers from withdrawing money from their accounts?” he queried.
If the CBN intervention is well implemented, the farmers believe that cassava cultivation has the power to create the necessary employment. By paying more attention to the implementation of the Anchor Borrowers financial intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria in cassava the country can harnessed the economic benefits of the commodity.
Biodun, an agriculturist, wrote from Ede, Osun State