Farmer’s productivity in Nigeria has always been hampered by a number of factors, such as poor funding, inadequate inputs, poor varieties and inability to sell produce profitably following poor access to market.

To reverse the trend, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), in line with its developmental mandates in Section 31 of the CBN Act 2007, established the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) to create economic linkages between smallholder farmers and reputable companies (anchors) involved in the production and processing of key agricultural commodities.

The agricultural commodities covered under the ABP include, among others, rice, maize, wheat, cotton, cassava, potatoes, yam, ginger, sugarcane, oil palm, cocoa, rubber, soybean, sesame seed, cowpea, tomato, fish, poultry and ruminants.

According to the policy document, the broad objective of the ABP is to create economic linkages between smallholder farmers and processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and ensuring food price stability.

And the specific objectives include increasing banks’ financing to improve agricultural productivity by creating an ecosystem that drives value chain financing; reducing the nation’s food import bill through import substitution and enhanced domestic value addition; creating new generation of farmers through innovative financing to support smart agriculture; and deepening financial inclusion and growing smallholder farmers from subsistence to commercial farming.

The core of the programme is to provide loans (in kind and cash) to smallholder farmers to boost agricultural production, create jobs and reduce food import bill towards conservation of foreign reserve.

The programme evolved from consultations with stakeholders, including the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, state governments, agro-processors, commodity associations, financial institutions and smallholder farmers to ramp up agricultural production, boost non-oil exports and diversify the revenue base of Nigeria.

HOWEVER, it is pertinent to evaluate the impact on productivity of farmers, availability of industrial raw material and perhaps exports.

Speaking with The Guardian, President of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Mr Adeola Adegoke, said the 2020/2021 loans given to each some cocoa farmers helped boost productivity by at least 10 per cent, with some increasing their produce from 30 to 40 bags of the cocoa beans.

Adegoke added that beneficiaries also diversified the base of their incomes by planting other crops and adding animal and fish production through the facilities.

He said, hopefully, more farmers would get loans from the ABP scheme before the cocoa planting and maintenance season begins.

Adegoke, however, said there were some challenges confronting some farmers, such as fire outbreaks, herders’ destruction of farms and impacts of climate change of farmers. Despite these challenges, loan repayment had been very encouraging, and the association had been sensitising beneficiaries to rev up repayment.

An overview of wheat production in Nigeria, delivered by Dr. Oluwasina Olabanji, during a wheat farmers’ green field day in Kaduna State in February, said seeds and input challenges were being addressed by CBN (providing quality seeds from Mexico) and FMAN was commitment to off take all wheat grains produced by farmers.

Again, during the wheat farmers’ green field day in in Dambata council of Kano State, on February 16, 2022, Olabanji assured Nigerians that the journey to wheat self-sufficiency had begun in Nigeria and would be sustained with the political will of Nigerian government and various initiatives from FMAN and CBN.

Also, while making comments on the ABP recently, Vice President, Olam Agric, Reji George, said the scheme is capable of producing more crops for food and industrial uses.

He said efforts of his firm and out-growers to participate in the 2020/2021 season failed because the company had given our inputs to out-growers before the ABP inputs were ready.

“But this year, we cannot do it because irrigation facilities in Kano and Jigawa are closed down for repairs. We are willing to participate.”

The joint venture has 1,900 out-growers cultivating tomato with off-take agreements. 1000 farmers are in Jigawa and they cultivate 1000 hectares, with others in Bauchi and many other locations too, he said.

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