From Uche Usim, Abuja
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Godwin Emefiele said on Thursday that the Bank would resist the import of maize into the country, saying Nigerians have the capacity to grow the crop locally to meet domestic demand.
Mr Emefiele urged youths across the country to embrace agriculture, declaring the Central Bank’s readiness to support those ready to venture into the field.
The CBN Governor made the declaration in Katsina at the unveiling of the first maize pyramid and flag-off of the 2021 maize wet season farming under the CBN-Maize Association of Nigeria (MAAN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme.
He noted that Nigerian youths could leverage their talents, along with technology, to improve farm productivity and delivery of agricultural produce to markets.
While noting that agriculture offered significant benefits for the youth, Mr Emefiele reiterated that the Bank had put in place several measures to improve access to credit for youths interested in Agriculture under the Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Agri Business Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme(AGSMEIS).
According to him, groups of youths with contiguous land for farming are eligible to seek the Bank’s support through the CBN prime anchor arrangement.
The CBN will not only provide access to credit for these youths but will also provide guarantees that their produce will be purchased by a prime anchor at agreed prices,’ the Governor assured.
The CBN Governor stated that the Bank would resist attempts by those who seek to import maize into the country, noting that maize farmers in Nigeria have what it takes to close the maize demand gap of over 4.5 million metric tonnes.
‘With over 50,000 bags of maize available on this ground, and others aggregated across the country, maize farmers are sending a resounding message that “we can grow enough maize to meet the country’s demand,’ he declared.
Speaking further, Mr Emefiele explained that the maize unveiled at the ceremony would be sold to reputable feed processors, adding that this would in turn impact positively on current poultry feed prices, as over 60% of maize produced in the country are used for producing poultry feed.
Justifying the Bank’s continued strategic intervention in the value chains of focal crops, he said the CBN was leading the revolution, because the impact of our monetary policy measures would be limited, if the monetary authority in collaboration with the fiscal authorities failed to address some of the structural constraints that limit productivity in key sectors of our economy such as agriculture. Specifically, he said the Bank’s intervention was in line with its mandate and aims at ensuring price stability as well as improved availability of staple food items.
He disclosed that the Bank and MAAN sought to increase the target hectarage for 2021 to 500,000 ha from the 2020 target of 250,000 ha, adding that to achieve the target, the Bank sought to introduce the use of contiguous land, high yielding seeds, mechanization, leveraging technology for land mapping and monitoring as well as expanding the Strategic Maize Reserve (SMR). So far, he said the Bank had released 100,000 metric tonnes of maize to the market, through the major producers.
Mr Emefiele urged all stakeholders to sustain the current efforts to galvanize agricultural production to meet the requirements of Nigeria’s growing population, stressing that the nation could not continue to dwell on the neglect of past years if it was determined to realize the national target of producing what Nigerians eat and eating what is produced in Nigeria.
Also speaking at the event, Katsina State Governor Mr Bello Masari said that the state had suffered a setback in agriculture as over sixty thousand hectares of farmlands were uncultivated due to insurgency, which hindered farmers from gaining access to their means of livelihood.
The Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, while unveiling the pyramids, reassured the farmers, processors and other value chain participants, of the support of the government towards ensuring that they perform optimally. He said the availability of inputs like high yield seedlings and fertilizers were being made available to farmers adequately in addition to prompt off-taking of produce.
He further assured the people of the area that government was taking the security challenge with every seriousness and had resolved to stem it. He commended the resilience of farmers for quantity of maize produced amidst the insecurity.
In his remarks, Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State recalled with nostalgia that the historical groundnut pyramids he read about in history books are today being seen in rice and maize stacks across the country through the help of the Central Bank of Nigeria. He also encouraged youths to take to agriculture for wealth creation by embracing the schemes put in place by the Bank.