From Isaac Anumihe, Abuja
THE FEDERAL Government has disbursed a total of N4.9 billion as loans to farmers aross the country as 570,000 direct jobs have been created, the Cental Bank Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, has said.
According to him, about 70,871 rural farmers now own and operate bank accounts and are captured under the Bank Verification Number (BVN) biometric project.
Speaking during the assessment tour of the farmlands cultivated under the Anchor Borrowers Programme in Kebbi State at the weekend, Emefiele noted that its performance has vindicated the apex bank and given the incentive and appropriate support, Nigerian farmers can fill whatever gap that exists between the demand and supply of agricultural produce like rice, wheat, cotton and palm produce.
He said the current scarcity of foreign exchange(forex) confronting the country has been described as a good omen for the economy because local production of various essential goods are now being given top priority.
He stated that the commitment of the stakeholders and expected output from Kebbi State alone have proved the critics of the apex bank’s policy measures wrong.
Emefiele stated that with the level of success attained with the pilot project in Kebbi State, in addition to what he saw at Sunti Golden Sugar Estate in Niger State recently, it was a reality that the country could produce enough to feed itself and even export in no distant future.
The Governor stated that the success recorded by the rice farmers in Kebbi State has rekindled hope in the ability of Nigeria to be self-sufficient in rice and wheat production, noting that with the sum of N210,000 granted to each farmer, they are able to cultivate a hectare of rice.
He disclosed that a total of 78,581 farmers were mobilised in Kebbi State under the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
The farmers are already looking forward to a total of one million metric tonnes of rice this year.
On his assessment of the programme, the Minister of Agriculture, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the level of activities in the rural areas visited by the team have shown that with Kebbi State alone targeting one million tonnes of rice out of the projected seven million tonnes required by the entire country, self-sufficiency in rice production is very much in sight by the time other 12 states identified as rice producing belts harvest their produce. He commended the CBN for reinventing agricultural practice into profitable business venture.
The minister added that rural areas remain the catalyst for viable economic development and, as such, deliberate efforts are being directed at opening up the rural areas just like what was witnessed in Kebbi State.
In his remarks, the Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, said that farmers in the state have adequately been mobilised towards the attainment of the one million tonnes of paddy by providing them with necessary inputs as and when due.
He also noted that with assurance of availability of market for the produce, farmers in the state are already looking forward to the repayment of the loan at the beginning of the farming season.