The rice pyramids have returned across the country. The maize pyramids have returned too. These pyramids have dotted the skylines in states like Kebbi, Niger, Katsina, Jigawa, Ekiti, and a host of others.
For some others like Lagos, Edo, Rivers and more, there are CBN financed industries maximizing the farm produce to make products.
Recall that the pyramids were hitherto lost in Nigeria until the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) under the leadership of Mr Godwin Emefiele, initiated a refreshing focus on agriculture, industries, small and medium scale enterprises and other areas of the real sector.
In fact, young adults in Nigeria of about 30 years never witnessed any agriculture produce pyramids until recently when the CBN made that happen.
When the CBN launched the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) over five years ago, it perhaps did not anticipate the scale of success the programme would record and the impact across the country.
But five years down the line, Nigeria’s agricultural landscape has changed for good and no one single region or state is left behind.
Also, it is significant to note that the benefits have been almost evenly distributed from the north to the south from the about N700 billion released for the targeted crops and animals, and their value chains.
Speaking recently in Ado Ekiti at the public unveiling of the Ekiti rice pyramid project and flag-off of the wet season rice cultivation, the CBN Governor, Mr Emefiele, said over N300bn of the about N700bn already distributed for agriculture, has been disbursed to the southern part of country including Lagos, Edo, Ekiti, and Ondo states.
He said 21 agricultural commodities have been the most targeted, among which included rice, maize, wheat, oil palm, cocoa and several others.
“From inception till date, we have financed 3,107,890 farmers for the cultivation of 3,801,397 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 Participating Financial Institutions in the 36 States of the Federation and FCT,” he said.
Emefiele noted that “the positive impact of the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme can be seen in all our agrarian communities as it has brought hope to the farming population through the timely delivery of agricultural inputs and the provision of a guaranteed market for their outputs at a market determined price.”
He said the “ABP has been able to support some of our macroeconomic objectives by enabling more employment opportunities, driving financial inclusion and improving access to finance in our rural communities.”
Under the 2020 wet season RIFAN-CBN partnership, he said CBN “financed 221,450 farmers for the cultivation of 221,450 hectares in 32 States.
“The pyramids being unveiled today are part of the harvest from the various fields from the South-West and other neighbouring States to demonstrate the spread of the movement and provide evidence that rice production is viable in all States of the Federation.”
He said beyond RIFAN, the CBN supported a number of prime/private anchors. Omoluabi Farms (Ekiti), Time Sellers (Ogun), Truechem (Ogun), Wems Agro (Ondo) and many more awaiting disbursements for the 2021 wet season.
Thus, CBN’s huge support for agriculture is ensuring food sufficiency, empowerment of peasant farmers and helping to save foreign exchange for Nigeria as less food imports happen.
The CBN has continued to rev up investments in the agricultural space. It has commenced the 2021 wet season farming investments.
Emefiele said: “We have a very optimistic outlook for the 2021 wet season. We will bring to bear our learning experiences over the past years, adoption of hybrids and high yielding varieties, timely supply of inputs to take advantage of the planting seasons, and good market linkages to sustain our effort at increasing production.
“We have planned a minimum one million hectares of rice through a combination of RIFAN farmers and prime/private anchors for each planting season in 2021.
“Our backward integration drive with rice millers is also gaining momentum as we intend to finance some millers to grow their own paddy during this wet season. We also have aggressive production plans for maize, wheat, soybeans, cassava, sorghum and cassava,” he said.
The governor also indicated that the CBN will be helping states with funds to clear land as land clearing is a huge problem to farming.
“Land clearing, access to irrigation, and availability of high yielding seeds have remained the greatest challenge to increased agricultural production in the South and we have provided long term financing options targeted at unlocking more land for agricultural production nationwide. The Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (AADS) and the Private-Sector Led Accelerated Agricultural Development Scheme (P-AADS) were established to address this concern for the State Government and Private Sector players respectively. The provision of other farm related infrastructure like irrigation facilities, rural access road, mechanization services, logistics and post-harvest handling activities can be accommodated under these interventions” he stated.
He also said if farmers pay their loans, the CBN could intervene in more areas thus urging the farmers who benefited from the loans to pay back.
“Loan repayment is the hallmark of every credit cycle and the sustainability of the programme is hinged on farmers’ ability and willingness to repay their loans, and we are constantly engaging with them to enhance their trust in the system. The pyramids being unveiled today are harvests from the financed fields that have been submitted as part of loan repayment by farmers under the RIFAN-CBN programme.”
“To further create value and transfer these gains across the value chain, we have mapped rice millers to off-take the paddies, and we will track the release of their outputs to the market, as we strive to manage inflation and grow the rice value chain in Nigeria,” he said.
Emefiele also indicated that the commodity exchange will be revived to ensure price stability of commodities.
“In support of the growth recorded in this drive to attain self-sufficiency in food production and to moderate prices of agricultural commodities, Mr President has approved the resuscitation of the Nigeria Commodity Exchange (NCX).
“The CBN in partnership with other Stakeholders have committed N50bn to this exercise and we are hopeful that the “Revamped NCX” will commence operation by the 4th quarter of 2021.
“A vibrant commodity exchange will significantly enhance post-harvest handling, guarantee effective pricing for farmers, minimize the adverse effect of middlemen and commodity hoarders and ultimately transfer the gains from primary production to other nodes of the value chain.
“This aligns with our resolve to classify outputs from farms as assets for loan repayment, under the ABP. High quality and verifiable output can also help to support market activity on the commodity exchange, as farmers can enter into credible supply contracts with off takers,” he explained.
In his comment at the Ekiti rice pyramid project, Governor Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti state, said: “Rice has become the most consumed staple in Nigeria. In the year 2018 alone, Nigeria imported 0.58 trillion worth of rice valued at $1.65 billion. The present policy of support for local rice production by President Buhari has contributed immensely to food security in Nigeria.
“Considering the huge market and high population of Nigeria with the urgent need to eradicate poverty, it has successfully demonstrated the need to look inwards by taking advantage of the available fertile land, perennial river bodies and human resources for the production of rice.”
According to him, “one of the policies of the Federal Government towards encouraging agriculture is the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme. The programme was introduced on November 17, 2015 to enhance rice production. The first two years of the programme (2015 to 2017) recorded significant increase in rice production with resultant decrease in rice importation.
For instance, rice importation from Thailand fell from 644,131 metric tonnes in September 2015 to 20,000 metric tonnes in September 2017, which accounts for a drop of over 90%.
“The success so far recorded was made possible because of the Anchor borrowers program introduced by the Federal government in conjunction with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) that has not only improved rice production but has also enhanced the quality through de-stoning. It has also seen the increase in the number of local rice mills,” he stated.
He said the federal government disbursed money to the Anchor and in conjunction with the participating States, for land clearing, provision of seeds for planting, inputs such as knapsack sprayers, tube wells, pumping machines, ploughs, combined harvesters, rice milling machines and production lines, packaging were also provided. Furthermore, analysis of the ABP programme indicates that funds provided at low interest made possible: easy access to rice farmers; economies of scale as large clusters of farmers are enlisted into the programme; enhanced the rice value chain in the form of finance to primary producers to processors – handlers – wholesalers – storage – marketing (branding) – export; improvement in farmers’ fortunes; and employment generation.
The others are food sufficiency, thereby banishing poverty and insecurity; generation of revenue as farmers will now pay taxes; and improvement in the economy as naira gains value.
He also noted that this ease of production of rice -the most valued staple in Nigeria- has been successfully practiced and celebrated in some states like Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto, Niger, Kwara, Ebonyi etc.
It is gratifying that today, Ekiti State is now joining the train as a participant in the Anchor Borrowers Programme of the CBN, in partnership with the National body of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria led by Alhaji Goronyo.