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Government supported 4.8m farmers, produced 23 commodities under ABP

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja
19 January 2022   |   2:45 am
The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) has so far supported over 4.8 million smallholder farmers across Nigeria for the production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize

A Nigerian police officer walking with a sniffer dog inspects a rice pyramid during the launch of the largest rice pyramids in Abuja, Nigeria, on January 18, 2022. – The bags of rice which were planted and harvested by Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) from states in Nigeria, are one million rice paddies stacked in 15 separate pyramids which is expected to solve the food crisis in Nigeria. (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

To introduce eight-tonne/ha rice variety

The Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) has so far supported over 4.8 million smallholder farmers across Nigeria for the production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa, cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock, President Muhammadu Buhari has said.

Also, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele has disclosed that the Federal Government is set to introduce a new variety of rice capable of delivering eight tonnes per hectare.

Speaking yesterday in Abuja at the unveiling of the FCT mega rice pyramids, Buhari argued that the Anchored Borrowers Programme had increased access to finance by rural farmers, who before now were excluded from the financial system.

Buhari hinted that rice production in Nigeria has increased to over 7.5 million metric tonnes yearly, adding that before the introduction of ABP, the average production in Nigeria between 1999 to 2015 was less than four metric tonnes yearly.

Buhari stated that as a critical policy of the government, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is expected to catalyse the agricultural productive base of the nation, which is a major part of his government’s economic plan to uplift the people, create jobs, reduce reliance on imported food and industrial raw materials, and conserve foreign exchange.

The President also revealed that the improved rice seedlings have helped to ensure the achievement of rice sufficiency, as they are disease-resistant and have an average yield of about five metric tonnes per hectare, compared with the traditional national average of 1.5 metric tonnes, saying this had resulted in bridging Nigeria’s rice consumption gap, a significant reduction in rice imports, and saved foreign exchange.

Emefiele hinted that the new improved variety initiative is expected to begin in the 2022 dry farming season.

“We are currently exploring a new rice seed variety with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) that has the potential to deliver over eight tons per hectare. The pilot programme should commence in the 2022 dry season, and it has the potential of being the game-changer for the rice sector in Nigeria. We will work with the various seed certification authorities and explore the possibility of patenting it for RIFAN as part of their legacies under the Programme,” he explained.

He added that the apex bank had deepened its stakeholders’ engagement to increase the arable land under cultivation and improve the productivity per hectare using improved seeds and agronomic practices.

Emefiele argued that COVID-19 has shown that Nigeria cannot rely on imports and hence it must chart its path to attaining self-sufficiency in basic needs as a nation.

The apex bank chief hinted that maize pyramids would soon be unveiled in the South-South and South-East zone later in the year.

Restating the importance of commodity exchange to food production, Emefiele added: “The resuscitation of the Nigeria Commodity Exchange (NCX) is another strategic initiative to enhance the food security drive of your administration. A vibrant commodity exchange will significantly enhance post-harvest handling, reduce wastages and guarantee effective pricing for farmers.

“It will also minimize the adverse effects of the activities of middlemen, commodity hoarders and ultimately transfer the gains from primary production to other nodes of the value chain. This aligns with our resolve to take outputs as loan repayment under the ABP and the produce will drive the operations of the commodity exchange going forward.”

Notably, Emefiele saluted the tenacity of rice farmers who are accessing their farms despite losing their colleagues to the rising insecurity in the country, banditry, COVID-19 lockdown among other challenges.

“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,” he said.

Emefiele further disclosed that the Strategic Maize Reserve with the stock of maize submitted as loan repayment will provide a buffer for price modulation for the poultry and feed mills nationwide.

He added that 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.