From Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has assured that Nigeria would meet its 6.1 million tonnes rice demand by the end of this year’s harvest season.
Acting Director, Corporate Communications of the bank, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, who disclosed this in Awka during a three-day sensitisation workshop for the people of Anambra State, said already the national rice output has risen to about 5 million tonnes.
He said the feat was made possible by the apex bank’s intervention through the Anchor Borrowers programme, which, according to him, added 2.1 million tonnes of rice to the national output in the first year.
He said: “Nigerians are rising up to the occasion. In Kebbi State alone, over a 100 farmers are taking part in our Anchor Borrowers programme. There are so many of them across the country and more and more states are cuing in. For the first year of operation of the Anchor Borrowers programme, it added 2.1 million tonnes of rice to the national output and that is what brought the national output close to 5 million tonnes.
“Our national demand is 6.1 million tonnes and you can see that that gap will be closed in the first one year. In some states there are three harvests a year, one wet season and two dry seasons. By the time we conclude that of this year, we hope that we will be very close to target if not beyond it.
“We have for the first time in many years reversed the nation’s misfortunes in rice production to the extent that by the end of next year, Nigeria will become a net exporter of rice. We’ve done it in Kebbi. It is going on in Anambra. It is going on in Enugu, Ebonyi, Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Ogun State. So our Anchor Borrowers programme strives to set up a process that will enable farmers get the most critical inputs and the best practices and so more than tripple their output and it is working.
“Now we talk of Anambra rice. We talk of Ebonyi rice. There is Lake rice, which is a collaborative effort between Kebbi and Lagos State. Our farmers are rich again. Every farmer that is taking part in Anchor Borrowers programme is a millionaire today because we stopped selling foreign exchange for the importation of rice last year. The price of rice rose last year and our farmers rose to the occasion and started making the money. It is better that we create jobs here than creating jobs abroad where we import those things.”
Okoroafor further said the CBN policy of reserving foreign exchange for critical inputs that would bring back the production lines in factories and support the farmer to grow more foods, helped to raise value of the naira.
He said: “As a country, we are facing a very critical shortage of foreign exchange arising from the economic crisis that started two years ago. At a time our naira crashed to over N520 and N525 to a dollar. That is not a good development for an economy like this. So what do we do? We decided that in order to meet the critical needs of the economy, we needed to prioritise the use of the foreign exchange that is available to us.
“As our foreign exchange reserves were depleting, we decided that we will no longer sell foreign exchange for the importation of those items that Nigerians can produce at home and that is the most logical and most reasonable thing to do.”
Even in families, people adjust when things change. So we came up with a group of 41 items, including eggs, beaf, toothpick, rice and so on.
I think it’s foolhardy for a country to begin to spend scarce foreign exchange to import what it can produce at home, comparatively advantageously.
“So we decided that if anyone wants to import those things, he can go and source his foreign exchange but for us, we reserve our foreign exchange for critical input that will bring back the production lines in factories, that will support the farmer to grow more foods; those are our critical needs and we have done that successfully.”
On the campaign the bank brought to Awka, Okoroafor said, “the purpose of our journey here is to bring CBN and what it does nearer to the grassroots and our intention is to enable them understand what we do, especially our real sector interventions, and also know how best to benefit from them. We are also here to explain to them some of our policies, especially our foreign exchange policies, the current ones going on, and to make them realise that we have come to a point as a country where we must decide to produce what we eat and eat what we produce.
“That no nation can develop by depending on foreigners for its food needs and that the only way to grow our economy and advance our nation is to ensure that we apply our creative energies in innovation, in creativity to production and that productivity is the root of progress. That the CBN stands ready to provide the financial support by way of loans at 9 per cent interest to all Nigerians especially the creative, enterprising and hard working people of Anambra State. To enable them to produce, add value and even export and make money to better their lives and to bring up their children.
“We have encountered problems where people come and say, ‘we don’t have collateral and banks collect collateral from them’. We have successfully established the National Collateral Registry, which is a register for movable assets. Now, especially people at the lower end can get loans, micro loans by using what they already have, if somebody has a beauty saloon and she has a generator and one dryer, and she wants to acquire an additional dryer, she can register that generator as a movable asset and use it to take a loan. While the loan is running she is using the generator, so your asset, while working for you, is getting you money to expand your business. That is the beauty of the National Collateral Registry.”