From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has called on Nigerians to exercise some patience, assuring Nigerians that especially with expansion in rice farming, the prices of food will be more affordable for all.
The President, who spoke at the official commissioning ceremony of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Rice Paddy Pyramids at the Abuja International Trade Fair Complex, said across Nigeria, more than 4.8 million smallholder farmers had been supported by Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, with increase in production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock.
According to a statement by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, Buhari said rice production in Nigeria today, has increased to over 7.5 million metric tons annually.
He said, “Prior to the introduction of Anchor Borrowers Programme (APB), the average production in Nigeria between 1999 to 2015 was less than 4 metric tons annually.
“I am aware that the bags of paddy will be moving straight from here to rice milling plants across Nigeria, which lead to the release of processed rice to the markets by the rice millers. The measure will aid our efforts at reducing the price of rice in Nigeria.
“Before this administration launched the ABP, there were only 15 standard Rice mills in Nigeria. As at today, we have over 50 Standard and integrated Rice mills creating jobs and reducing unemployment. We expect additional significant output when two new mills are started in Lagos and Katsina,” he said.
The President said the large margins in the business of rice had also encouraged more people to show interest in investing in agribusiness.
“Fellow Nigerians, our gathering here today, is no doubt a testament to the fact that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is working. Indeed, these sky-high pyramids which we are gathered here to commission are part of our commitment at achieving national food security and economic diversification through home-grown policies targeted at securing food for all Nigerians.
“As a critical policy of the government, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is expected to catalyze the agricultural productive base of the nation, which is a major part of our economic plan to uplift the economy, create jobs, reduce reliance on imported food and industrial raw materials, and conserve foreign exchange.
“In the implementation of the Programme, adoption of high-yielding seedlings, quality inputs and best farming practices were essential features.
“For instance, the improved rice seedlings have helped to ensure our achievement of rice sufficiency, as they are disease-resistant and have an average yield of about 5 metric tonnes per hectare, compared with the traditional national average of 1.5 metric tonnes.
“This has resulted in bridging our rice consumption gap, a significant reduction in rice imports, and saved us foreign exchange,” he added.
The President said the commissioning of the rice pyramids was an indication that the country was making steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production, adding: “It is my desired hope and expectation that other agricultural commodity associations that are yet to participate under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme will emulate the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria in supporting our administration’s drive for food self-sufficiency.”
The President noted that, about three years ago, the first set of sky-high pyramids of rice harvests were showcased in Argungu, Kebbi State, which was followed by another set in Minna, Niger State about a year ago and barely three months later in Zauro, Kebbi State, rice pyramids were, again, unveiled.
President Buhari said in May 2021, the CBN unveiled the first rice pyramids in the South-West of Nigeria in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State.
“Those events were historic as, first, they remind us of our yester-year’s agricultural commodity pyramids, such as the groundnut pyramids in Kano and secondly, they symbolize that we can produce what we eat.
“The significance of today’s occasion can be better understood by looking at the various economic strides the administration has achieved through agriculture.
“When we assumed the reins of leadership of this country in 2015, the administration identified the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme as an essential policy instrument for achieving economic diversification through agriculture.
“To achieve this, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme was designed to encourage investments in agriculture and empower smallholder farmers as drivers of transformation in the agricultural sector and as critical enablers of economic growth.
“I am indeed delighted that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme continues to receive commendations, since its introduction six years ago, as it has become one of the reference points in the administration’s agricultural revolution effort.
“In fact, the Programme speaks loudly in its giant strides as it has increased access to finance by our rural farmers, who before now were virtually excluded from the financial system,’’ he said.
President Buhari commended the Central Bank of Nigeria for its efforts at resuscitating the Nigerian Commodity Exchange following approval to do so.
This, he said, had been done in the hope that farmers can have ready buyers of their produce, thereby resolving the current logistical challenge of moving their produce from farm to markets.
“Let me also commend the Governor and staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as well as the leadership of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria for the successful delivery of these pyramids, which hopefully is just the first of many that will be unveiled this year across Nigeria,’’ the President added.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, commended President Buhari’s outstanding resolve on food security for the country, unveiling the single largest rice pyramid in history,
According to the CBN Governor, taking a cue from the success of rice production, the financial regulatory body had commenced the wheat value chain, which produces five to six million tonnes each year.
President of RIFAN, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, said more than 99 percent of the paddy rice for the year was already with farmers across the nation, while the bags in 13 pyramids will be sold to further ease and augment production.
“There is no adjective to thank you enough for what you have done for this country. You came when the country needed you the most and God knows why.
“You have served the country, and you have worked for the country. Food security is also national security. No President after you will ignore what you have done, especially in food security,’’ the President of RIFAN said.
President Buhari presented awards to Governors Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi State, Prof. Ben Ayade, Cross River State, David Umahi, Ebonyi State, Alhaji Abubakar Badaru, Jigawa State, Godwin Emefiele, CBN Governor, Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, President of RIFAN and Yila Yusuf, Director, Development Finance, CBN.