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By Nimat Otori

The Partnership created between the Central Bank of Nigeria with private and public sectors to boost farming activities through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme , ABP, has continued to enjoy commendation.

The ABP focuses on the provision of farm inputs in kind and cash, for farm labour, to smallholder farmers to boost production of the targeted commodities.

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At harvest time, the smallholder farmers supply their produce to the Agro-processor (referred to as the anchor) who pays the cash equivalent into the farmer’s bank account.

The ABP was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari in Kebbi State to create a linkage between anchor companies and smallholder farmers involved in the processing of the required key agricultural commodities.

Specifically, the objective was the provision of inputs to boost the production of rice, maize, poultry, sorghum, cassava, tomatoes and cotton, among others.

Speaking during the launch of the programme and flag-off of the 2015 dry season farming in Birnin-Kebbi, Buhari frowned at the huge sums spent by Nigeria on the importation of food items that could be produced locally, stressing that the N1 trillion importation bill is no longer sustainable.

He observed that ABP will 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.

So far, over two million farmers have participated in the production of 17 different agricultural products under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP.

Kebbi being the take-off state disclosed recently that the scheme has transformed the lives of over 70,000 farmers in the state.

Malam Yahaya Sarki, the Special Adviser to Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State on Media said: “The scheme has received the total backing of Gov. Abubakar Bagudu, even though a Federal Government scheme.

“Gov. Bagudu’s administration supported the programme by also providing logistics support to the Anchor Borrowers Programme Committee to go out to all the 21 local government areas to capture the bio-data of farmers to ensure that only genuine smallholder farmers get the loan.

“The programme revolutionised rice farming in Kebbi to the extent that within one and a half years of the launch, Kebbi recorded the production of almost two million tonnes of rice,” he said.

Sarki said the state became the darling of many states in the country, who became fascinated by Bagudu’s feat in rice production.

“The programme has also made many youths and civil servants who were hitherto not farmers to go back to the farms.

“From 2016 to 2017, most of the pilgrims that registered to go for pilgrimage in Mecca were farmers who got their money through rice cultivation.

“The story did not end there; many Kebbi farmers became millionaires. The state also witnessed the influx of both foreign and local investors. Rice processors established rice mills, both big and small.”

Sarki said modern rice mills like Labana and Wacot established their bases in Birnin Kebbi and Argungu respectively, adding that other mini ones abound in different parts of the state such as Lolo and Kamba in Dandi LGA.

Also, the Katsina State Governor, Aminu Bello Masari, while commending the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrowers Programme, especially in Katsina, Kebbi, Kano and many other parts of Nigeria, said it has boosted local production of rice and other grains.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has so far given agriculture the priority attention it deserves.

Masari said Nigerians went through the Covid-19 period well because there was food, “Nigerians should thank Allah for the wisdom of President Muhammadu Buhari for giving agriculture top priority,” adding that “during the difficult days and times of Covid-19, even if one has the money to buy the products, it could not be found by the buyers.”

Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, once described the programme as a fight against food insecurity, noting that in the state, a total of 2,947 farmers were credited with N500 million in March 2020 by the CBN while 900 farmers were credited with about N180 million.

A rice farmer in Ofada, Ogun State, John Olawale, described the programme as very good and beneficial to many farmers.

He said the programme has assisted in stemming illegal importation of food and has given incentive to local farmers to operate optimally while ensuring national food security.

Olawale said the ABP is a good effort by the government to protect local farmers by banning the importation of food items that the local farmers have a comparative advantage in production.

Alh. Abubakar Aliyu, Kano State’s Chairman, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), said the association registered farmers across the 44 Local Government Areas of the state.

“We have no fewer than 27, 000 registered farmers under the ABP in our association, who benefitted from the Federal Government’s Anchor Borrower programme,” he said.

Aliyu explained that each farmer would collect, as part of a total package, seeds, fertiliser, chemicals, and some funds for the payment of labourers.

Members of the Tomato Growers Association of Nigeria, Kano State chapter, also benefited from seedlings as it has continuously distributed seedlings to tomato growers who registered on the platform of the ABP.

Cotton farmers numbering over 13,000 have benefited from the 2020/2021 Central Bank of Nigeria loan under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP.

The state chairman of the National Cotton Association of Nigeria, NACOTAN, Alhaji Sani Dahiru, disclosed at a brief ceremony to hand over recovered cotton from the 2020/2021 beneficiaries of the programme in the North-West and distribution to some selected cotton ginneries in the state for processing.

He said that about 4,000 tonnes of cotton, representing 40 per cent of the loan, had been recovered from the beneficiaries.

“We are expecting the recovery of 10,000 tonnes of harvested cotton in the state from the beneficiaries,” he said.

He commended the Federal Government for initiating ABP, saying it had boosted cotton farming in the state.

According to him, five years back before the intervention, some of the ginneries in the state were closed down, while some were working below 30 per cent capacity.

“Today, with the ABP, many ginneries have begun operation at over 50 per cent capacity.

“This has enhanced the economy of many families by engaging them in farming and processing activities,” Dahiru said.

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