Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor

By Okey Onyenweaku

Deputy Governor, Corporate Services of the Central Bank of Nigeria,CBN, Edward Lametek disclosed yesterday that over N1.3 trillion has been spent on rice, fish, sugar and wheat imports in the last one year.

Lametek who said this at the ongoing 28th Seminar for Finance Correspondents and Business Editors in Owerri, Imo State, added that the apex bank was committed to improving the domestic supply of these commodities which put a lot of pressure on the country’s import bill.

Speaking further at the workshop themed: “Galvanizing Development Finance and Monetary Policy for Growth,” he said that economic diversification remained the most sustainable way to grow the economy.

He pointed out that the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP) which was launched in November 2015, was designed to build partnerships between small holder farmers and reliable large-scale agro-processors, with a view to increasing agricultural output, while improving access to credit for farmers.

“Our targeted focus on the agricultural and manufacturing sectors was driven by the vast opportunities for growth in these sectors given our high population. These sectors have the ability to absorb the growing pool of eligible workers in our effort to meet local demand and save critical foreign reserves. For many countries, the objectives of monetary policy are explicitly stated in the laws establishing the Central Bank, while for others, they are not. The objectives of monetary policy may vary from country to country,” he said.

Lametek said the CBN’s approach to stimulating economic development is centered on Agriculture, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and Infrastructure development.

“You are no doubt aware that the Central Bank of Nigeria has transcended its core mandate of maintaining monetary, price and financial system stability, to undertake developmental initiatives with a view to spurring economic growth and job creation,” he said.

He noted that efforts at these development finance initiatives have helped to accelerate the actualization of the Federal Government’s economic diversification programme adding that diversifying the economic base presents a more sustainable and stable option.

“Given the foregoing, it is our conviction that focusing our developmental efforts on sectors with inherent potential for growth, employment and accretion to foreign reserves, would enhance the fortune of the Nigerian economy. The CBN increased its lending to the agricultural and manufacturing sectors, through targeted intervention schemes such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme and the Real Sector Support Facility,” he said.

He said Nigeria’s recent experience with recession attests to the value of effective implementation of monetary policy.

“Though we adopted unconventional or heterodox monetary policies, they were however, well thought through and have been yielding significant gains for the Nigerian economy.

Noticeably, the GDP recovery in the third quarter of 2017, which has been sustained for 9 successive quarters after 5 consecutive quarters of negative growth. This unconventional monetary policy initiatives have been premised on ensuring credit delivery to critical sectors of the economy. This has informed the directive to Deposit Money Banks to maintain a minimum Loan to Deposit Ratio (LDR) of 65 per cent by the end of December 2019. The Bank is also creating the necessary eco-system to inculcate a better credit culture among Nigerians.

He said that CBN’s policies has helped the country to achieve significant reductions in its annual imports bill, and increased non-oil exports.

“Our Development Finance interventions has helped to bolster agricultural production by removing obstacles faced by small holder farmers. We have also improved access to markets for farmers by facilitating greater partnership with agro-processors and industrial firms in the sourcing of raw materials. So far, the programme has supported more than 1.5m farmers across all the 36 States of Nigeria, in cultivating 16 different commodities over 1.4 million hectares of farmland. It has also supported the creation of over 2.5m jobs across the agricultural value chain,”he said.

He said CBN’s intervention in the rice value chain in Kebbi and other rice-producing states across the country that increased local rice production from 2.5 million tonnes in 2015 to 5.8 million tonnes in 2017 as well as cotton intervention with the flag-off of input distribution to 150,000 cotton farmers, cultivating 150,000 hectares in 23 States of the Federation. Currently the cotton planted by these farmers has begun fruiting, while some are ready for harvest and off-take.