Experts have called on the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to extend the success the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has recorded in rice production in the country to other agricultural products.
The ABP which was launched in November 2015 has doubled Nigeria’s rice production to more than 4 million metric tonnes in May 2017, from less 2 million metric tonnes before the introduction of the scheme, but the country need 7 million metric tonnes to self-sufficiency in rice production.
The acting President, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo was optimistic recently that Nigeria would achieve this target in 2018, saying that with the implementation of the scheme, in 2016, Nigeria imported just about 10 per cent of the amount of rice it imported in 2015.
Dr Muda Yusuf, Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) stated that though testimonies from rice farmers and those who process it showed that the scheme has been successful, but it should be extended beyond rice production.
“Agriculture is not just about rice. We have been too restrictive in our approach to agriculture. It is also important that we look at how to build the capacity of the farmers,” he noted.
“We are still heavily dependent on small holder farmers and we say we want to be self-reliance in food. We can’t achieve that unless we mechanize agriculture. And many farmers don’t have the capacity to mechanize.”
He pointed out that access to fund, machinery, land and processing are still issues inhibiting agricultural development in the country, which the government needs to tackle.
Professor Leo Ukpong, Dean, School of Business, University of Uyo claimed that the Anchor Borrowers Programme can only be said to be successful when the price of rice, which is still high, eventually drops.
But Alhaji Muhammed Augie, State chairman, Kebbi State Rice Farmers Association lauded the CBN for introducing the scheme, saying it has given retail farmers access to input that they were initially finding difficult to get.
“As the level of rice production continues to increase, the price will fall. The scheme would enable more farmers to come in and produce more rice. Initially, there won’t be that sharp drop in the price of rice, but as more farmers enroll and produce more rice, there would be more rice in the market.”
He noted that farmers of other agricultural produces like maize, millet, fish etc were also benefiting from the Anchor Borrowers Programme.
Lagosians were able to buy local rice for N12,500 during last Christmas due to the partnership between Lagos State and Kebbi State, which led to the production of Lake Rice powered ABP, while imported rice was selling for N20, 000 during that period.
The apex bank recently disclosed that it had already disbursed N33.34 billion to 146,557 farmers across 21 states cultivating over 180,018 hectres of land.
The Federal government has stated that it plans to create 20 million jobs through agriculture alone by the end of 2018 and the ABP alone is supposed to create economic linkages between over 600,000 small -holder farmers and reputable large-scale processors.
Some farmers who got loans through the scheme have started repayment. The CBN disclosed farmers enrolled in the ABP have already paid back N1.238 billion from the N33.34 billion it has so far disbursed.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from Agriculture dropped to N3.39 trillion in the first quarter of 2017 from N4.66 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Despite government resolve to use agriculture to address the high unemployment bedeviling the country, it only set aside N103.7 billion of the N7.44 trillion 2017 budget for the sector.