From Uche Usim, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, State Governors, Ministers, rice farmers and other players in the rice value chain have expressed joy that local production has increased from about 5.4 million metric tons in 2015 to over 9 million metric tons in 2021, under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP).
They also applauded the significant improvement in productivity per hectare of the smallholder farmer from about 2.4 metric tons per ha in 2015 to about 5 metric tons per ha in 2021.
Speaking while unveiling the Abuja rice pyramid on Tuesday, President Buhari noted that the production expansions have not only made Nigeria the largest rice producer in Africa but has also unlocked enormous private sector investment in the rice value chain as the number of Integrated Rice Mills grew astronomically from six in 2015 to over 50 in 2021; with many more at various stages of completion.
“The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has so far supported over 4.8 million smallholder farmers across Nigeria for the production of 23 agricultural commodities, such as maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato, livestock, amongst others.
The ABP is working. Indeed, these sky-high pyramids, for which we are gathered here to commission, are part of our commitment to achieving national food security and economic diversification through home-grown policies targeted at securing food for all Nigerians.
“Before my administration launched the ABP, there were only 15 standard Rice mills in Nigeria. As of today, we have over 50 standard and integrated rice mills in Nigeria, creating jobs and reducing unemployment in Nigeria. We expect additional significant out when the two new mills are established in Lagos and Katsina. I am also aware that because of the large margins in this business, more people are showing interest in investing in our agribusiness
In his remarks at the event, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele hailed Nigeria smallholder farmers and the leadership of the various commodity associations for their diligence, bravery, patriotism, and adaptability.
“The past few years have been quite challenging as they have battled with insurgency, banditry, lockdowns and other related setbacks. Indeed, we lost some farmers to insurgency attacks nationwide whilst some could not access their farmers for several months. Yet, they kept the faith. They did not give up. They persevered. They did not abandon our fight for food self-sufficiency. Today’s event, therefore, is a celebration of their doggedness and an appreciation of their commitment to food security.
“The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has catalyzed the rural economy and has built a sustainable framework for financing smallholder farmers in Nigeria. The Programme has developed an ecosystem among all nodes of the agricultural value chain and these linkages can be better optimized through synergy among all stakeholders. As of the end of December 2021, we have financed 4,489,786 farmers that cultivated 5,300,411 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT.
“We are delighted that these efforts have yielded fruits in not just increasing the availability of rice, but also in moderating prices, reducing imports and increasing job creation in the country. For example, Thailand alone exported 1.3 million metric tons of rice to Nigeria in 2014. The ABP was launched in 2015 to curtail these imports, and since then, we have seen incremental reductions in rice imports from Thailand. By 2016, rice imports from Thailand had fallen to only 58,000 metric tons. As of the end of 2021, they only exported 2,160 metric tons to Nigeria, thereby saving us foreign exchange and helping preserve jobs in Nigeria.
“Taking a cue from our success in the rice value chain, we commenced the “Brown Revolution” last year as our mantra for the transformation of the wheat value chain in Nigeria. Wheat is the 3rd most consumed grain in Nigeria after maize and rice. It is estimated that we only produce about 1 per cent (63,000 mt) of the 5-6 million mt of wheat consumed annually in Nigeria. This enormous demand-supply gap is bridged with over $2 billion annual importation of wheat. As a result, wheat accounts for the second-highest food import bill in Nigeria, thereby putting pressure on the nation’s foreign exchange reserves. We have concluded the 1st major wet season wheat farming in Plateau State and planted over 100,000 hectares of wheat across 15 States in the 2021 dry season. This strategic intervention will herald a progressive reduction in our wheat import bills over the coming years.
“We also established a Strategic Maize Reserve with the stock of maize submitted as loan repayment by our farmers. This will provide a buffer for price modulation for the poultry and feed mills nationwide. A total of 241,656.76 MT was aggregated in the 2020 wet and dry seasons, out of which 217,218.53 MT has been disposed to 18 millers and poultry farmers through the Poultry Association of Nigeria. The programme was able to stabilize the poultry and livestock sectors during the pandemic and saved the industry and consumers over N10 billion in raw material costs”, the CBN Governor explained.
In his goodwill message, the President of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo asked Nigerians and the government to keep investing in agriculture as it remained a sure ticket to food security and economic prosperity. He thanked the President and the CBN for the ABP initiative saying it has created jobs.
“In 2020, 280,798 hectares of land was cultivated for dry season rice farming, while 219,275 hectares were planted in 2021”, he revealed.
Also speaking, the Ekiti State Governor, Dr Kayode Fayemi said the ABP initiative empties into food security programmes for the country and called for its sustenance.
On his part, the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, hailed the CBN for embracing President Muhammadu Buhari’s mantra of growing what the nation eats and eating what is produced.
“We’ve pumped over N1 trillion in ABP and we’ve done well compared to other climes.
Food prices increase is a global phenomenon. Price of rice has increased by less than 20% in last one year and rice is doing better than other products”, he said.