The country’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in rice production is gearing closer day-by-day as the Federal Government recently revealed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)’s Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has boosted local rice presence in Nigerian markets. TAIWO HASSAN reports
In the beginning
When the idea to attain self-sufficiency in rice production in the country was mooted by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government in 2014, many Nigerians did not believe that it would come to reality since they have been accustomed to foreign rice being imported from Thailand, Brazil, India, USA and UAE.
One thing that convinced the administration to insist self-sufficiency was the continued rise in the country’s import bill on importation of rice. Prior to the initiative, Nigeria was spending about $22 billion annually on food.
However, in 2015, during one of the Federal Executive Council meeting (FEC) in Abuja, the Federal Government agreed on the need to float an Anchor Borrowers Programme to be managed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), which focus would be to increase the country’s quest for self-sufficiency in rice production.
The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) was conceived out of the CBN’s resolve to achieve a strong and viable agriculture base with more integrated value chains, enhanced food security, fewer imports and higher productivity.
In line with the Federal Government’s target of achieving food security for the country, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, explained that the APB was one of the apex bank’s initiatives to pursue creation of jobs, reduction in food imports, and diversification of the economy.
He said: “The programme aims at creating economic linkages between over 600,000 smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors with a view to increasing agricultural output and significantly improving capacity utilisation of integrated mills.”
It was established with a view to collaborating with anchor companies involved in the production and processing of key agricultural commodities.
Specifically, the APB has been pushed for rice and wheat farmers in 14 states, Kebbi, Sokoto, Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Jigawa, Kano, Zamfara, Admawa, Plateau, Lagos, Ogun, Cross-Rivers and Ebonyi, to advance their status from smallholder farmers to commercial or large growers.
This has become essential as the Federal Government has set a target of 2018 and 2019 for self-sustenance in rice and wheat, a target that is achievable if the success being recorded in Kebbi was replicated in other states that had been penned down for the programme.
President Buhari’s comment
On food security, the president said that his vision of repositioning Nigeria as a food-secure nation was on course as the country is on the verge of attaining food security.
He attributed the development to positive agricultural reform programmes and bumper harvest occasioned by good weather.
According to him, interventions through the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the CBN and the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative, among others, have been very successful in the agricultural reform initiative.
“People have gone back to the farm. We got the CBN, agriculture minister and money was provided at very low interest to farmers and the farmers responded and it was very positive. “We are lucky that we are in a position to feed ourselves. So we are going to have food security in Nigeria earlier than anybody ever thought,’’ he noted.
However, recently, Nigeria inched closer to achieving self-sufficiency in rice production as the administration announced that it was already targeting seven million tonnes production of the commodity in 2018.
According to the government, the giant stride in the country’s agric sector could be traced to the agricultural reform policy that has transformed the sector.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, had stated that rice demand in the country as at 2015 stood at 6.3 million tonnes.
He said that due to the success recorded by the administration in local production of rice, importation dropped from 644,131 tonnes in 2015 to about 21,000 tonnes in 2017.
The minister added that as a result of the success recorded in local production of rice, some investors from Thailand had shown interest in establishing rice milling plants in Nigeria.
No doubt, the country’s quest to attain self-sufficiency in rice production has seen the establishment of many rice mills in the country.
These rice mills demonstrate the commitment of the current administration to assist off-takers and processors to contribute their quota towards attaining self-sufficiency in rice production in Nigeria.
Today, Nigeria is one of the largest producers of rice in the continent and this momentum could be traced to CBN’s APB.
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