Ban on rice imports: Fed Govt to save N1.3trn through Anchor Borrowers Programme – CBN

By The Citizen

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), yesterday, said the Federal Government Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) will save the country more than N1.3 trillion currently spent on the importation of rice and other food items annually.

Speaking during a CBN/Bank of Agriculture (BOA) brainstorming session, in Kaduna, the Director of Development Finance Department of the CBN, Dr. Mudashir Olaitan said the programme is aimed at encouraging more people to be involved in agricultural production in the country.

He said the country spends huge amounts of money importing food even though it has a large capacity to produce food. 'We spend about N1.3 trillion on three commodities, including rice, which we have the capacity to produce. So, what we are doing is to try to diversify the economy by bringing experts in the field of agriculture to brainstorm with other stakeholders, especially using the experience gathered in Kebbi state, with a view to properly understanding the programme,' he said.

Commenting on why the CBN is interested in the policy Olaitan said: 'We are interested because the programme is diversifying the economy and it is also enabling our cashless policy because before a farmer can access the funds, they must have a bank account and also the Bank Verification Number (BVN).'

He further said about 120,000 farmers have been covered in about 11 states of the federation and over N1 million jobs have been created through the programme, adding, 'we deployed about N27.5 million for the participating farmers, and the beauty of the programme is that the farmers are trained on how to use best practices, which is a big advantage in terms of helping them know what should be done, which has added to increased production input.'

The Managing Director of BOA, Danbala Danju, who was represented by the Executive Director, Corporate Services, Muhammad Adamu Sambo, said investing in agriculture is the only way to get the country out of recession. He said the programme has tackled the importation of rice.

'The rice that would have been imported with the scarce foreign exchange, which is well over 600 million dollars, is now saved to do other things for the country.

'The programme has also created employment and wealth, as many families can feed and support themselves through agriculture, but the most important thing we want Nigerians to realise is that this is not free money; they are expected to pay back and it will be used to empower other farmers.

'If the programme continues successfully, Nigeria will be self-sufficient in the next three years, more land has to be cleared, there is need for more dams for dry season farming and tractors. He, however, noted that land security for farmers to have their land registered and given Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) is very important in ensuring that the country is self-sufficient, so they can continuously use the C of O to raise credit from banks.