Launched in 2015, the programme is particularly aimed at boosting local production of rice and wheat, two of the four products that dominate the country’s foods import bill.
Under the programme, the CBN is setting aside N40 billion, out of the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund, as loans to farmers at a single-digit interest rate of nine per cent per annum at most.
According to the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele: “The fund is to boost rice and wheat production in 14 participating states: Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Adamawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi.
“Nigeria’s food import bill is both exceptionally and unsustainably high. The top four import commodities, which include rice and wheat, consume over N1 trillion in foreign exchange annually.’’
Emefiele said that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme would be a decisive model that will transform Nigeria from one of the world’s highest importers of rice into a net exporter of the commodity in the short to medium term.
“It will undoubtedly complement the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) and advance the status of many subsistence GES smallholder farmers to commercial or large-contract growers, with attendant increase in agricultural productivity and farm income,” he said.
According to Emefiele, the programme is designed to create economic linkages between farmers and processors to ensure increased agricultural output of rice and wheat.
He said that it would also close the gap between the production and consumption of rice and wheat by raising the capacity utilisation of the nation’s integrated mills.
President Buhari, who launched the ABP, expressed high expectations that the scheme would lift thousands of smallholder farmers out of poverty and generate millions of jobs for unemployed Nigerians.
He particularly frowned at the huge sums which Nigeria spent Nigeria on the importation of food items that could be produced locally, stressing that the N1-trillion rice and wheat import bill was unsustainable.
Recalling the period when agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s economy, Buhari said that the current realities in the global oil market had left Nigeria with no other option than to diversify its economy into other productive sectors.
In the meantime, the Niger State Government has urged farmers in the state to embrace ABP in their efforts to boost rice and wheat cultivation.
Gov. Sani Bello said that under the scheme, rice and wheat farmers were expected to advance their status from smallholder farmers to commercial or large growers.
“We have for long depended on crude oil, which has resulted in the challenges which our country is facing today. We have also neglected the abundant resources we are blessed with.
“It is time to go back to the soil. As government, we have interacted with the people and we have received complaints such as lack of access to fertiliser. Henceforth, we will provide fertiliser for farmers,’’ he said.
Bello said that 100,000 farmers in Niger were expected to access the CBN loan, adding, however, that only 14,000 farmers had so far registered for the scheme.
On his part, Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State pledged the state government’s commitment toward ensuring the smooth implementation of the initiative in the state.
He said that his administration had made concrete arrangements to boost rice production in the state, adding that it had acquired 50,000 bags of high-yield rice seeds for distribution to rice farmers across the state free of charge.
He also said that the state government had procured 5,000 pumping machines at the cost of N30,000 each, which would be sold to farmers who registered for ABP at the subsidised cost of N10,000 each.
Tambuwal noted that the major challenge facing the farmers was their low level of awareness, calling for intensified efforts to increase the farmers’ awareness of the benefits of the programme.
The governor appealed to the farmers to embrace the new techniques of farming and cooperate with ABP officials so as to achieve the desired results.
Also speaking, Alhaji Abdullahi Dattijo, Chairman of Sokoto State Committee for the Revitalisation of Agriculture, said that 6,265 farmers had so far opened accounts with various banks to signify their interest in the anchor borrowers’ scheme.
He also said that the committee had received applications from 19 agricultural inputs’ suppliers who had expressed interest with regard to the supply of fertilisers, seeds, pumping machines and agro chemicals.
Besides, the Kaduna State Government said that it has screened and registered no fewer than 60,000 farmers in the state for ABP.
Malam Dahiru Abdullahi, the Public Relations Officer of Kaduna Agriculture Development Programme (KADP), said that farmers, who cultivated ginger, maize, rice, soybeans and sorghum, had also registered for the scheme.
He said that the gesture was part of the state government’s efforts to assist farmers and boost the cultivation of food and cash crops in the state.
He said that cooperative societies as well as individual farmers had already opened accounts in the designated commercial banks to enable them to access the loan.
Besides, Abdullahi said that the state government had trained extension service workers on how to guide the farmers in effort to reduce risks and enhance farm yields.
He said that the Ministry of Agriculture would ensure that farmers had access to variety of seeds and other inputs so as to boost agricultural production in the 2016 cropping season.
“The banks appointed by CBN to disburse the loans to farmers include Bank of Agriculture (BOA), First City Monument Bank (FCMB), Heritage Bank, Zenith Bank and Sterling Bank,’’ he said.
In Cross River State, the government has started the training of rice farmers who would benefit from the ABP.
Mr Godwin Akwaji, Coordinator of the Programme and Senior Assistant to the Governor on Revenue, said that the scheme was one of the government’s ways of addressing poverty among the people.
“Government is determined to touch the lives of the people through the provision of loan facilities to all interested farmers,’’ he said.
In the same vein, Adamawa State Government has registered 120,000 rice and maize farmers as beneficiaries of the initiative.
The Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr Waziri Ahmad, said that N23 billion was expected to be injected into the programme, with Adamawa opting for the cultivation of rice and maize.
“So far, under the National Anchor Borrowers’ Initiative, aimed at facilitating the nation’s agricultural development, a total of 120,000 rice and maize farmers were registered in the state.
“We chose maize because we have the highest concentration of cattle in the country and maize is the major component of cattle feeds,’’ he said.
Ahmad explained that under the scheme, a minimum of 150,000 hectares of farmland would be used for rice and maize cultivation in 2016.
The commissioner said that the registered farmers would be supplied with all necessary agricultural inputs through a public-private partnership.
“Adamawa has a total of 3.9 million hectares of land and about 2.8 million hectares are arable land suitable for all kinds of agriculture,’’ he said.
Ahmad said that the cost of cultivating one hectare of rice the state was between N150, 000 and N160, 000.
He said that at the end of every farming season, the state government would buy the surplus farm produce directly from farmers at reasonable prices.
The commissioner said the state was planning to register no fewer than 250,000 farmers for ABP in 2017.
All the same, analysts urge the participating states to ensure hitch-free implementation of the programme across the country. (NANFeatures)