The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has made several efforts towards ensuring that Nigeria, a nation of over 200 million people feed itself.
The government, especially through the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP, introduced six years ago and spearheaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has introduced several interventions in agriculture, one of them being rice cultivation, to stem the tide of capital flight through massive importation of the staple food, in the country.
Through the ABP, conceived as a low-interest loan scheme that gives ample flexibility for re-payment to make the loan farmer-friendly, farmers have benefited from single digit loans which have been boosted investments in rice cultivation in the country.
Speaking with NATIONAL ECONOMY yesterday, an investor in Nigeria’s agriculture sector, Ahmed Munir, said the ABS has been quite a laudable initiative. ‘‘There has been a huge effort and focus to increase rice production and productivity to improve farmers’ livelihood. The scheme did reasonably well in achieving its targets in selected states.
‘‘Local production of rice has increased. Millers are now able to easily buy paddy for their milling operations. Farmer incomes have gone up dramatically especially in the rural areas and is thus commendable. A lot of agro companies are also increasing their production and investment across the rice value chain.’’
According to Munir and other stakeholders who spoke with NATIONAL ECONOMY, investments in rice production should be sustained. They also want the government to ensure better border patrol to prevent sabotage by smugglers.
Following the unveiling of one million bags of rice paddy stacked as pyramids in Abuja on Tuesday, the stakeholders said there is need for sustained investment in the production of rice, as well as better border control to consolidate on the achievement and attain rice-sufficiency.
Sequel to the twin actions of the launch of the Anchor Borrowers programme ABP and ban on the importation of rice by the current administration five years ago, Nigeria’s rice production has more than doubled from 3.5 million metric tonnes to 9 million, ensuring the country’s rapid push to rice self-sufficiency.
Bolstering NATIONAL ECONOMY’s position, the president of Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria (RIFAN), Aminu Goronyo, has said that the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has increased capacity of Nigerian farmers towards attaining food security.
Goronyo said this in an interview on Wednesday in Abuja. He spoke against the backdrop of the recent unveiling of mega rice pyramids in Abuja by the CBN and RIFAN.
He explained that the intervention programme by the CBN had increased the number of cropping seasons thereby boosting food production.
“Before now we had one cropping season, which was the wet season. Farmers were not cultivating during the dry season.
“But now, with the support of the CBN through the ABP, we can do two dry season farming with one wet season farming, making three,’’ he said.
The RIFAN President explained that the rice on display in the pyramids was appropriated as loan repayment to the CBN by beneficiaries of the ABP.
“The right thing is to hand it over to the CBN that funded the project so that they will sell it to integrated rice millers and small scale rice millers at a subsidized rate.
“This will ensure that the final consumer is able to buy rice at an affordable price,’’ he said.
He added that unveiling of the pyramids was an indication that Nigeria is becoming self-sufficient in food production.
“It will build confidence in Nigerians that we can now grow what we eat. We have more than enough to eat that we no longer need foreign rice,’’ he said.
In a related development, The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has reiterated that the federal government has placed a full ban on importation of foreign parboiled rice through the seaports. The federal government had banned importation of rice through the land borders in 2016.
Also, the Central Bank of Nigeria has not issued Form M since 2015 for the importation of rice through the seaport making it impossible to import foreign rice through the seaports.
Speaking on the development, the Customs Area Controller (CAC), PTML Command of the service, Compt. Festus Okun, said the command intercepted containers loaded of foreign parboiled rice which, he said, are not expected to be allowed into the country whether through land borders or seaports due to the ban placed on them by the federal government.
Compt. Okun who, however, disclosed that the command generated N224.4billion revenue from importation of vehicles and other general cargoes in 2021 said, due to the ban placed on the importation through the borders, importers now falsely declare foreign rice as other consignment.
“It’s a policy by the federal government that we should encourage local production of rice and it was on that basis that importation of rice was prohibited and when they say ban through borders, it means both land and sea borders and for our purpose here, I want to say categorically that this is a border area because goods from overseas come in through here.
“One of the major instruments is that people cannot access forex going through the CBN for importation of rice so, if you don’t go through CBN, how do you source your funds to import rice? And because of this, nobody declares that they are importing rice so, it is false declarations and we seize on that basis. I will say both land and seaports are not expected to allow importation of rice into the country,” he pointed out.