The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele on Monday said the country was likely to make significant strides over the next three years in repositioning the agricultural sector for greater growth.
He said the combined efforts of the apex bank and the National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) in making land and credit available to farmers would further add to the gains so far recorded through the bank’s intervention support in the sector.
The CBN governor, at the inauguration of the maiden integrated farm estate established by NALDA in Daura, Katsina State, described the facility as a milestone achievement, which would catalyse the desired agricultural revolution in the state and the country in general.
This is as the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive of the authority, Prince Paul Ikonne, said the farm estate, established on a 100-hectare land donated by the Katsina State Government, has the capacity to generate over N1.7 billion in the first year.
Emefiele, however, said the CBN would work with Ikonne and his team to explore the potential of providing affordable and accessible finance to the beneficiaries under the agricultural scheme to scale up productivity.
He pointed out that the strategic mandate of NALDA aligned with the current developmental priorities of the CBN.
Emefiele said the CBN was positioned to ensure the integration of farmers into the federal government’s Economic Sustainability Plan, which was focused on providing five million homes with electricity using renewable energy.
He explained that under the programme, farmers with good repayment records under the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) would be eligible to get solar home systems (SHS) to supply electricity to their homes.
He noted that the bank would develop a repayment framework that would allow the farmers to use their farm produce to pay for electricity consumed under the scheme.
The CBN, therefore, governor added that the initiative was expected to improve the standard of living of smallholder farmers across the country and motivate prompt loan repayment, as well as enhance the sustainability of the programme.
He noted that the survival of country was hinged on the resourcefulness and synergy among various government’s ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) in areas of policy formulation and implementation, which was a pre-requisite to the attainment of the desired growth trajectory.
Emefiele recalled that the CBN intervention programmes and schemes were introduced with the core objectives of stimulating investments in the real sector, thereby catalysing growth and inclusive development.
He said: “As you may be aware, the programmes and schemes have recorded resounding successes, and the recent unveiling of maize pyramids in Katsina State, as well as paddy pyramids in Niger, Kebbi, Gombe and recently Ekiti States are testaments to our success story.
“These symbolic events reinforce our belief in the massive potential of Nigeria’s agricultural sector and the need to stimulate more private sector investment in the agricultural value chain with the support of the government.”
He said since inception, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration had taken necessary measures to stimulate investments in critical sectors and segments of the economy, particularly those with high-growth impact and employment-elastic potential.
He said in line with the bank’s vision, the CBN had introduced several lending programmes and provided finance to these sectors and segments, with their implementation tailored to support the administration’s policy of repositioning Nigeria to become a self-sufficient food producer, creating millions of jobs and supplying the domestic industries with their raw material needs.
He said CBN’s development finance efforts were also driven by the need to diversify the economy by reversing the ugly trend of relying largely on revenues from crude oil.
To this end, Emefiele said the ABP had become a game changer for financing smallholder farmersthat were leading the bank’s efforts at improving the cultivation of agricultural commodities including rice, cassava, maize, tomatoes, fish, cotton, oil palm, cocoa and wheat.
He said the programme also linked smallholder farmers to agro-processors and manufacturers, who provided quality inputs and trainings in best farming practices to ensure high yield and output.
According to him, the ABP had financed 3,734,938 smallholder farmers cultivating 4,648,880 hectares of 21 commodities across the 36 States of the federation and the FCT, since in 2015.
Emefiele added that under the Agri/Business Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), loans had been disbursed to 29,023 projects across the country, of which 16 per cent of beneficiaries were in the North West, with Katsina accounting for 21 per cent of North West beneficiaries.
Under the Targeted Credit Facility (TCF), he added that 631,738 businesses and households across the country had been supported, with 95,011 businesses and households having benefitted in the North West.
On his part, the NALDA chief executive explained that the farm was designed as cyclical, where every process was part of a value chain.
His words: “It is divided into 80 hectares for crop production and 20 hectares for animal production, processing and packaging, with growing of feeds, which include recycling animal wastes as fertilizer for plants, and growing plants to feed the animals.
According to him, the facility comprises 40 poultry pens with a capacity of over 400,000 birds, fish ponds with a capacity of 200,000 fishes, cow and goat pens with a capacity of 500 animals, rabbit pens with a capacity of 3,000 rabbits, bee apiary with a capacity of 540 litres of honey per harvest and crop farming, packaging and processing zones among others.
The estate also has a school, clinic and a residential area, with 120 units of one-bedroom apartments to enable some farmers and their families live and work in the farm as well as capacity to engage 1,500 women and youth directly.
James Emejo in Abuja