By MARK ITSIBOR –
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has announced a new plan to expand its agro-based – Anchor Borrowers’ initiative to cover another set of micro and large-scale farmers in the country, with a target to produce additional two million metric tonnes of paddy rice in a rekindled partnership with the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN). The move is obviously to consolidate on the gains of the ABP and reach more deserving smallholder farmers nationwide.
According to the CBN, another 300,000 farmers will directly benefit from the second phase of the programme that is now revamping the nation’s agricultural sector. What that means is that, the new moves will almost double the achievements of the programme that was launched on November 17, 2015.
CBN’s Ag. Director of public communications, Mr. Isaac Okorafor told reporters at the recently held Abuja trade fair that N43.92 billion has so far been expended on the programme that is fast returning the economy to the good-old-days of 1960s when agriculture contributed 54.7 per cent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), while repositioning the economy for self-sufficiency in food production.
Clear objectivity, sincerity of purpose enveloped in huge commitment from all stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, are the key factors behind the success of the first phase of the Central Bank of Nigeria-initiated Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) in the country. From birth on November 17, 2015, the programme has been inclusive, as much as it is redemptive. True to its design, ABP has been able to significantly reduce agricultural commodity importation and conserve external reserves and created economic linkage between smallholder farmers and reputable large-scale processors, giving evidence to the need to expand the programme to reach more farmers in the country.
The ABP has clearly leaped the nation’s agricultural sector that accounted for only 4.8 per cent of the total foreign earnings in 2016 when the total figure of 200, 000 smallholders and large-scale from 29 states of the federation became direct beneficiaries, and 233,000 hectares of farmland cultivated.
Beyond the implementation of the foreign exchange (FX) restriction on 41 items – not valid for foreign exchange, aggressive purposeful drive of the ABP has also combined to result in 65 per cent drop in the country’s monthly import bill, from an average of $5.5 billion to $1.9 billion as of half year 2017, according to figures from the central bank. In the last one year alone, Nigeria’s forex reserve ratio has experienced a magical increase by more than $11. It has specifically grown from $23 billion to over $34.112 billion between October of 2016 and 2017.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), exportation of agricultural goods in Nigeria grew by 82 per cent in the first quarter of 2017. The a breakdown of the NBS report earlier in the year showed that proceeds from agricultural products stood at $340 million (N105.06 billion) in the first quarter of 2017, representing 39.5 per cent of total non-oil export proceeds. Food products, manufactured products and industrial goods counted for 10.8 per cent, 16.9 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively.
All of that figures are expected to now increase by 300 per cent in the next one to two years. For instance, according to the National President, Rice Farmers Association (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo over 12 million rice farmers will participate in the new CBN-funded Anchor Borrowers Programme. Goronyo reportedly made the disclosure while sensitising rice farmers to the requirements of the new phase of the CBN programme.
“We are on tour of the whole country to interact with RIFAN members on the new developments in the Anchor Borrowers Programme,” he said, disclosing that the programme was being run by so many stakeholders, causing lots of setbacks in loan repayment. But the CBN modified the programme, particularly with 2017 dry season rice production, according the leader of the rice farmers.
Experts insist that the country’s agricultural potential is high. Nigeria has 82 million hectares of arable land from which about 34 million hectares were reportedly cultivated as at 2016 when the ABP took aggressive penetration of the nation’s farmlands, at the same time it started receiving massive acceptability.
As at the last count in August this year, over 7.086 million jobs direct jobs have been created through the several intervention programmes of the central bank.
Speaking recently at the just concluded Lagos International Trade Fair, Mr. Okoroafor noted that the interventions of the apex bank in the agricultural sector through the Anchor Borrowers Programme, N300 billion Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) and the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund (ACGSF) has seen the creation of 6.833 million direct jobs.
If that figure is summed up with the 12 million direct jobs expected to be created by the latest tranche of beneficiaries, it all amounts to mean that 18.833 million would be created through the interventions made in the agricultural sector alone.
In line with the federal government’s economic recovery and growth agenda, the apex also released N300 billion Power and Airline Intervention Fund (PAIF) which has created 7,899 direct jobs and 14,304 indirect jobs within the last one year.