The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, on Tuesday warned against Nigeria repeating the mistakes of the past by neglecting agriculture.
He said the country should immediately start to build its own food reserves, as the experience from the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated lockdowns globally had demonstrated that countries only export out of their reserves.
The CBN governor spoke in Zauro, Kebbi State, during the launch of the 2020 wet season harvest aggregation and 2021 dry season input distribution under the CBN-Rice Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (RIFAN) Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) as part of the fifth anniversary of the programme.
He said: “The rhetoric around neglect of previous years will remain part of our history and the best time to correct those mistakes is now and every stakeholder must contribute their quota to guarantee the realisation of these national targets.”
Emefiele, however, called for support to sustain the current efforts of the apex bank to galvanise agricultural production towards meeting the requirements of the country’s growing population.
He said the ABP, which is an essential part of President Muhammadu Buhari’s drive for economic diversification, had improved the fortunes of rural farmers as well as transformed agriculture into the potential for economic growth.
He said in the past five years, the scheme had recorded huge successes, learning points and challenges.
He, however, expressed optimism over the country’s capacity to achieve food self-sufficiency.
According to him, the CBN and RIFAN have targeted to cultivate one million hectares of rice farms, which represented over 350 per cent increase from the 221,450 cultivated in 2020.
In addition, a total of 2,923,937 farmers cultivating 3,647,643 hectares across 21 commodities through 23 participating financial institutions have been financed in the 36 States of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), from inception till date.
The CBN has also financed 221,450 farmers for the cultivation of 221,450 hectares in 32 states under 2020 wet season partnership with RIFAN.
Emefiele, however, stated that the partnership between the CBN and the Kebbi State government as well as RIFAN, was aimed at complementing the Economic Sustainability Plan of the current administration
He said following Buhari’s recent approval of the resuscitation of the Nigeria Commodity Exchange (NCX) and the commitment of N50 billion by the CBN and other stakeholders, the emergence of a vibrant commodity exchange would enhance post-harvest handling, guarantee effective pricing for farmers, minimise the adverse effect of middlemen and transfer the gains from primary production to other nodes of the value chain.
While also acknowledging the importance of loan repayment to the sustainability of the programme, the Emefiele said it was constantly engaging the farmers to enhance their trust in the system as well as provide a competitive price arrangement and facilitate effective market linkages for their outputs.
He explained that farmers will repay their loans in paddy for ease of repayment.
He added that to create value and transfer these gains along the value chain, the CBN has designated millers to off-take the paddies and track the release of outputs to the market as the bank strives to manage inflation and grow the rice value chain.
Also at the event, the Kebbi State Governor, Senator Abubakar Bagudu, and his Ekiti State counterpart, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who doubles as chairman, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), commended Emefiele for the novel initiatives in reviving agriculture.
Bagudu said the policy had not only brought succour to the country in terms of food security and diversification but also helped the country to exit recession in two quick successions.
Fayemi also described the interventions as thinking outside the orthodox paradigm of growing the GDP.
President, Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Alhaji Aminu Goronyo, expressed gratitude to Buhari for his vision that Nigeria must feed herself by producing what she eats and eat what she produces.
He added that the CBN governor had proven to the world that the agricultural revolution was doable
James Emejo in Abuja and Nume Ekeghe in Lagos with agency report