At least, 14,000 farmers in Niger State have benefited from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) initiated Anchor Borrowers’ Programme within the last one year, with about N2 billion already disbursed from the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Development Fund (MSMEDF).
The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele who disclosed this during the inspection of rice farms in Doko in Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State also said additional one million tonnes of rice are being expected from the cluster of rice farms from Niger State courtesy of the CBN-initiated Anchor Borrowers’ Programme across Niger State.
Experts believe the initiative will help the federal government to realise its seven million metric tons annual target of rice production in the nearest future.
The enhanced funding for agriculture through the ABP was in line with the bank’s resolve to achieve a strong and sustainable agriculture with integrated value chains, the CBN governor said.
This is as the bank promised to give more assistance to the rice farmers in the state to help them tackle issues of continuous flooding that has been ravaging their farm lands.
“I can see that you have excellent topography that can produce varieties like rice, soya beans, corn and millet. No doubt, your governor briefed me of challenges you encountered. He told me that some crops were destroyed by flood and excessive rain. We will see how to guide and support the state so that incidences of flooding do not have serious impact on farmers,” Emefiele said.
There have been reports of large scale lands of rice farms being destroyed by floods in the state and other parts of the country.
In his remarks, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh expressed President Muhammadu Buhari’s satisfaction and commended the farmers for contributing to efforts aimed at ensuring food security for the country.
Chief Ogbeh also assured the farmers of mechanized system of production, as government plans to provide them with harvesters and millers, even as he expressed optimism that the planned installation of state-of-the-art harvesters and millers would lead to increased production of rice in the country.
Continuing, the Minister added that, given the increased rice production across the country, government would soon stop the importation of rice into Nigeria. He also promised a solar-powered irrigation system to ensure an all-year-round farming activity, urging the farmers to embrace shifting cultivation to ensure the restoration of depleted soil nutrients.
The CBN Governor, alongside the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development,Governor of Niger State, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, and Governor of Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Bagudu, thereafter inspected the 7 hectares of the Batch A1 rice plantation in Santi Village in Lavun Local Government Area of Niger State.
On his part, the Special Adviser to the CBN Governor on Development Finance, Mr. Paul Eluhaiwe said the topography in the state was conducive for the cultivation of other grains or seeds such as Millet, guinea-corn, Sorghum and cotton, noting that Niger State would soon be competing with Kebbi State in view of the volume of metric tonnes of rice being expected from the harvest.
Earlier, the Chairman of the Farmers’ Cooperative in Niger State, Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed expressed appreciation to the Federal Government, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the State Government and the CBN, for assisting the teeming farmers in the state.
While citing lack of mechanization and irrigation for dry season farming, as some of the challenges faced by the farmers, he urged the farmers to remain focused and committed to rice production, as Government, through the CBN Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, was poised to address the issue of local agriculture production in the country.
The CBN Anchor Borrowers’ Programme was launched in Kebbi State in November 2015 by President Buhari. The flag-off of the ABP programme had since been replicated in 14 States of Adamawa, Cross River, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Lagos, Niger, Ogun, Plateau, Sokoto and Zamfara for rice and wheat farmers.
The ABP is aimed at advancing the status of small holders to commercial farmers, thereby achieving the trio objective of stimulating the needed capacity to meet the nation’s increasing food needs, creating millions of jobs and lifting thousands of small holder farmers out of poverty as well as easing the excessive pressure on scarce foreign exchange for food importation.